MEPs put human rights before robots

In an historic vote, the European Parliament in Strasbourg has taken the first step towards a new law that will set out humanity’s relationship with robots.

Our love affair with inanimate objects is undoing us according to EU politicians (pic:Jane Whyatt)

Our love of inanimate objects is undoing us say EU politicians (pic: Jane Whyatt)

“Human safety, dignity, privacy integrity and data ownership,” must in future be the guiding principles of our relationship with robots and artificial intelligence systems. Software engineers and manufacturers of automated systems will be obliged to build in ethical norms.

EuroParl logoThe EU is to insist on the adoption of ethical standards for the use of AI systems and autonomous devices across all member states to ensure that the industry has a level playing-field. Questions of liability, for example involving driverless cars, will be settled according to the new law, which is open for public consultation until the end of April 2017.

Digital Agenda

Future Intelligence has been at the forefront of this debate for decades, pushing for the development of ethics in technology at the European Union’s Information Society Technologies’ conference in 1998 which was attended by the renowned futurologist Alvin Toffler who died last year. We researched and published the 2014 report ‘Can we make the digital world ethical?’ and presenting it to the European Union’s Digital Agenda chiefs and giving evidence to the French Senate on the need to place people at the heart of technological systems and not at their mercy.

Europe’s lawmakers have taken the recommendations seriously and are now holding a public consultation on the proposed new Civil Law on Robotics. You can upload evidence and opinions for the next two months here

The politicians who have steered this new move through the parliamentary process have given interviews to FI about the implications of building in ethics to robots and AIs. Listen to the podcast

At Future Intelligence we want to know what your thoughts are on the new high-tech future. Do you want robots to take your jobs? If they do what would you like to do? How do you think you should be paid? Do you think you should be able to vote on technological developments? Would you like a say on the way that the smart-city is made? Do you think that you should be as anonymous as you always have been when you pass through this ‘brave new world’. Do you think that you should be paid for providing the data that makes the information age work or are you happier to be given the services of the information companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft in exchange – what would you prefer cash or computing?

Listen to the podcastRobot rights podcast.mp3

We would love to hear your views, because we think that people should have a say in their future rather than the companies that are trying to usher you into their version of it to their advantage. It is a little known fact that technology companies have the largest advertising and marketing spend of any other sector, money that they use to promote the benefits and not the bad side to their products.

The internet has ushered in an unprecedented era of communications and information flow but it has also meant that we are all now under surveillance until our rights are properly respected by our Governments – technology, like fire is a good servant but a bad master, we want to know what you think the balance should be, I want you to email me directly at


To listen to our hour long debate on the issue on the PassW0rd radio programme broadcast on London’s Resonance FM click here ‘Should Robots get rights?’