Newcastle Law School

Novel Beings

About Novel Beings

Dr David Lawrence and Dr Sarah Morley have been awarded £29,925 by the Wellcome Trust to explore company law and the emergence of novel beings.

The project first seeks to develop practical legal definitions for the status of both conscious and unconscious novel beings, in service of later developing and providing proposals for appropriate regulation for the responsible development, operation, and disposal of new morally significant technologies by corporations.

One forthcoming challenge for policy and regulation is the potential emergence of new types of being, both sapient and not, through advances in both synthetic genome technologies and the development of artificial intelligences (AI). It seems likely that these technologies will be the product of public companies and in particular multinational corporations.

The main source of regulation for these bodies derives from company law; and we have to decide whether the beings they produce should be accorded legal personality. How we answer this question will inform how heavily corporations should be involved in the development and application of these technologies.

This poses the question as to whether company law can, or should, be the primary means of regulating these novel beings, and by extension their potential wide-ranging societal impacts. This is not merely speculative; draft European Parliament legislation including electronic corporate personhood for AI systems has already been proposed.

Our proposed research will include establishing a network to consider these future technological developments and suggest practical legal definitions for the status of both conscious and unconscious novel beings, in service of later developing and providing proposals for appropriate regulation for the responsible development, operation, and disposal of the technologies.

Avengers #58, "Even an Android can Cry" by Roy Thomas and John Buscema (drawn by John Buscema)
Avengers #58, "Even an Android can Cry" by Roy Thomas and John Buscema (drawn by John Buscema)

Events

Evidence and Submissions:

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