On 6 March, Westminster Law School hosted a debate with Michael Butterworth, a technology, lawyer at Fieldfisher LLP, to discuss the possibility of robots acquiring legal rights in the future.

As technology develops and robots and AI get smarter, the question of whether they should be assigned legal rights will become a live topic.

The following questions ‘Should machines have rights?’ and ‘Are they even capable of exercising them?’ were explored during the debate, entitled ‘Robot Rights, Now!? A Conversation on the Possibility of Machines Rights’, on 6 March.

The event covered matters relating to whether robots can experience suffering, whether the feminising of certain robots promotes gender discrimination and how robots can enforce legal rights. In particular, the audience discussed if the ‘anthropomorphisation’ of robots, and how this could affect human relations, required robots to be given rights. The debate revealed that there is no clear-cut answer.

The professional panel included Michael Butterworth, a Technology, Outsourcing and Privacy lawyer at Fieldfisher LLP, Europe's leading technology law firm and Dr Paresh Kathrani Senior Lecturer in Law at Westminster Law School and AI, robotics and law researcher.

Dr Kathrani, said: “Undoubtedly, as machines become more humanlike and we come to rely on them even more, wider moral questions will need to be asked on how we treat them. These may then morph into some form of rights, and we need to discuss these and other related issues.”

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