As the UK very openly mulls whether or not it wants to be a part of Europe any more hasn’t slowed Brussels from ploughing ahead with new initiatives to deal with how we’ll integrate robots into our lives and society as a whole.
Putting potential ‘adult’ robot uses aside for a minute, the rules, the EU says, are required to ensure appropriate legality and responsibility in integrating the new non-humans into our lives.
With a robot workforce potentially replacing a human one, that would mean a significant drop in income and taxes for any government.
“[Robots] raise concerns about the future of employment and the viability of social security systems if the current basis of taxation is maintained, creating the potential for increased inequality in the distribution of wealth and influence.”
To balance this, the EU says that there may be the need to “introduce corporate reporting requirements on the extent and proportion of the contribution of robotics and AI to the economic results of a company for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions”.
Before you freak out, readers hoping (or indeed fearing) a sex robot-filled future, it seems this particular part of the framework would only apply to businesses using ‘working’ electronic persons. Given the as-yet undefined roll (and legal framework) around robots, it’s hard to say what will stick around in the proposal, and what won’t.
Or indeed, what will be defined as a ‘working’ robot. Would that apply to a companion robot that acts as a babysitter to kids or friend to the elderly?
As part of its many considerations (and resulting proposals for further discussion), what essentially underpins its arguments is the need for an ethical framework:
“The European Union could play an essential role in establishing basic ethical principles to be respected in the development, programming and use of robots and AI and in the incorporation of such principles into European regulations and codes of conduct, with the aim of shaping the technological revolution so that it serves humanity and so that the benefits of advanced robotics and AI are broadly shared, while as far as possible avoiding potential pitfalls.”
The proposal goes beyond just robots as you might imagine them, however, and includes anything that might fall under the ‘robotics’ umbrella – like driverless cars and particularly smart drones.
On cars, it says that the current fragmented approach across Europe, if continued, would “jeopardise European competitiveness”, though it notes that a change in laws for liability in the case of accidents wouldn’t require many changes.
For drones, the EU is re-iterating its cry for a full European framework for pilots to “protect the safety, security and privacy of EU citizens” and called for an update to a resolution presented in October last year.
In the US, of course, drone legislation now calls for drone owners to register their devices, among other rules.
Of course, if the UK leaves Europe, it’s going to have to work out how to manage all of this stuff for itself, as well as everything else, which seems like it could only serve to set the industry back in the long-run.