Retired robots don't take Caribbean cruises or need knee replacements, but the European Union is considering new rules that would make companies use social security funds for them anyway.
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The draft report from the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs, issued on May 31, seeks to address multiple social and ethical issues posed by the rise of an automated workforce. One of those issues is social security revenue: if companies replace human workers with robots, the amount they pay into Europe's retirement benefits system could decrease.
Under the proposal, companies would be required to declare "the savings made in social security contributions through the use of robotics in place of human personnel." Those savings could have tax implications, according to Reuters.
The proposal also seeks to establish liability rules for accidents and damage caused by "smart robots," as well as intellectual property rights for robots' inventions. It also establishes a code of conduct for robotics engineers and users, including provisions like "robots should act in the best interests of humans" and forbidding users to modify a "robot to enable it to function as a weapon."
Essentially, the move means robots will have "the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations, including that of making good any damage they may cause."
The Committee on Legal Affairs says regulations for a robotic workforce will help Europe stay competitive.
"The US, China, Korea, and Japan are currently working on very ambitious projects," Vice Chair Mady Delvaux wrote in an op-ed last fall. "If we do not create the legal framework for the development of robotics, our market will be invaded by robots from outside the EU. The European Parliament could be the first Parliament in the world to discuss and create such a legal framework."