Nowadays, machines have the ability to understand, make autonomous decisions and learn
from its past mistakes. A machine is an intelligent agent. It can sense the environment with
the help of sensors and actuators. Unlike humans, machines’ environment is defined and pre-
programmed. It acts according to its percept sequence. Because of the technological
advancements, the European Union suggested the legal status of electronic persons. It
suggested that robot can be held liable for their actions. AI can gain personality through these
agents. Sophia is the first humanoid robot to get a legal citizenship from Saudi Arabia in
October 2017. Racheal was another Robot to get legal personality.
Allan Turing in his Article questioned “Can Machines think?” He came up with the concept
of intelligent machines and said that machines can do tasks like arranging data, composing
songs etc. It can also put its thoughts together. However, between 1949-56, Jefferson
criticised this by stating that machines should actually understand what is done by it. It needs
to be aware of its own mental state. He also questioned that can machines have beliefs and
desires of its own? Can machine feel emotions? Turing defended these arguments by saying
that no standards should be raised for the machines. If a machine is capable of imitating
human, then it’s an intelligent machine.
There are 2 theories extended to AI to see how mind works-
a. Theory of functionalism
It helps to understand the mental state of machines. It is the intermediate casual condition
that exists between the input and the output. It determines whether machines can think
like humans. These mental states are the functional state in machines. The present mental
state should be associated with consciousness. It could have a mind, beliefs, expectations
and targets to be achieved, but can it feel the pain when the target is not achieved? It tries
to learn from the mistakes using the critic element. So, they have their own mind. Human
minds is designed by nature and nurture. But in machines, the concept of nature is
missing. It only learns from its surroundings, experiences etc. This theory believes that
intelligent agent can think and are self -conscious in nature.
b. Theory of Biological naturalism
Mind is the micro system of the brain while consciousness is the real biological
phenomena. Mental state is a high level feature caused by low level neurons. It is against
the concept of machines having mind. Machines do not have free wills or rational
deliberations. Brain biology is very critical and can’t actually be connected to machines.
Artificial consciousness is compared to that of humans to find out whether independent status
can be given to machines. Also, can machine hold rights and duties as a juristic person.
According to Ned Blog, only Acess consciousness exists in machines. A machine performs
an action only based on a particular logic. Therefore, artificial consciousness exists but it is in
its inceptional stage. AI can be granted legal personality with the help of Concession theory.
However, machines today are not capable of suing and be sued and holding rights and duties.
As such there is no free will in machines. It functions only on the basis of pre-programmed
code. AI can be divided into dependent AI and Independent AI. Dependent AI do not have
free will while it exists in independent AI. In case of Artificial neural network, the AI
transgresses the designed programme when it is in a deep learning state, where it learns from
its own past experiences, free will exists there. Because of deep learning, the machines learn
on their own. Machines also have autonomy as in the case of driverless cars. But as far as
self-awareness is concerned, machines can only be self-aware at a physical level.
Therefore, the concept of consciousness is at it’s inceptional states in machines and there are
enough debates as to whether legal personality should be given to machines or not. In my
opinion, technology is advancing day by day and the day is not far where legal personality
will be granted to machines. The facet of legal personality is that machines have to be held
responsible for their actions and they should be capable of suing and be sued. At present, they
do not have legal personality but the future is very bright when it comes to artificial
–By Vedika Kejriwal