European Plan Proposes To Tax Robots As People

A fairgoer shoots a small dancing robot, part of IBM's Watson AI department, at the Digital Business fair CEBIT in Hanover, central Germany, on March 15, 2016. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

We’ve seen them in movies and read about them in science fiction: robots living among us and independently completing tasks typically performed by humans.

But now, it seems like Europe has gone one step further with integrating robots into human society.

A draft plan proposes that the government starts classifying robots as “electronic persons” and requiring their human owners pay social security for them.

The draft motion was created by the European parliament’s committee on legal affairs. The motion also stipulated that companies who opt for robotics instead of people to perform labour need to declare their savings in social security contributions.

Why propose such drastic measures? This draft European Parliament motion — which is dated May 31 — highlights how robots have become more and more intelligent, independent, and ever-present around the continent.

Today, more and more robots are being used to perform labour in European factories. These robots are even performing tasks related to surgery and personal care — which has given rise to concerns about them causing a wave of unemployment, and eventually replacing human labour. Consequently, the draft plan proposes that governments need to take action and start thinking about how to tax robots, and make them or their owner legally accountable for their actions.

But we’re not living in a world where robots have completely surrounded us: are these measures going a step too far for the time being?

Germany’s VDMA, who represents Siemiens, Kuku, and other automation and robot companies, says there is no need for this kind of proposal — at least not yet. According to those with the VDMA, the timing for such a plan is just too fast: a legal framework for electronic persons may come into place several decades from now, but it shouldn’t be something we see within the next few years.

Yet while other growing technological industries — such as driverless cars — are needing legal regulations to ensure safety for drivers and accountability amongst its makers, creating these types of legal regulations on robots could have profound and far-reaching implications on the future of robotic technology. The VDMA also warns that the bureaucracy that would inevitably ensue from such a proposal could halt exciting future robotics innovation.

Do you think robots need to be considered as “people” and taxed in Europe? Sound off in the comments below.

For more on this story, visit The Globe and Mail.

Featured image source: Fortune

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