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Novel Beings

Dr Sarah Morley and Dr David Lawrence were awarded £29,925 from the Wellcome Trust. They explore company law and the emergence of novel beings.

The project develops practical legal definitions for conscious and unconscious novel beings.

That's in service of later developing proposals for appropriate regulation. We look at responsible development, operation, and disposal of new morally significant technologies.

Regulating potential new types of being

One forthcoming challenge for regulation is potential emergence of new types of being. These might be sapient and not. There are advances in:

  • synthetic genome technologies
  • development of artificial intelligences (AI)

It seems likely these technologies will be the product of public companies. It's likely to be multinational corporations.

Is company law adequate?

The main source of regulation for these bodies derives from company law. We have to decide whether the beings they produce should be given legal personality. How we answer will inform how corporations should develop and apply these technologies.

We need to look at whether company law can, or should, be the primary means of regulating these novel beings. We need to look at their potential wide-ranging societal impacts.

This is not merely speculative. Draft European Parliament legislation for electronic corporate personhood for AI systems has been proposed.

Our aims

Our proposed research will include establishing a network to:

  • consider these future technological developments
  • suggest practical legal definitions for status of both conscious and unconscious novel beings
  • develop and provide proposals for appropriate regulation for responsible:
    • development
    • operation
    • disposal

Evidence and submissions

Evidence submitted to House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Committee, accepted and published by Parliament (AIC0036) published 11 October, 2017

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