AI and legal personhood: a theoretical survey

Novelli, Claudio (2022) AI and legal personhood: a theoretical survey, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Law, science and technology, 34 Ciclo. DOI 10.48676/unibo/amsdottorato/10392.
Documenti full-text disponibili:
[img] Documento PDF (English) - Richiede un lettore di PDF come Xpdf o Adobe Acrobat Reader
Disponibile con Licenza: Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) .
Download (2MB)


I set out the pros and cons of conferring legal personhood on artificial intelligence systems (AIs), mainly under civil law. I provide functionalist arguments to justify this policy choice and identify the content that such a legal status might have. Although personhood entails holding one or more legal positions, I will focus on the distribution of liabilities arising from unpredictably illegal and harmful conduct. Conferring personhood on AIs might efficiently allocate risks and social costs, ensuring protection for victims, incentives for production, and technological innovation. I also consider other legal positions, e.g., the capacity to act, the ability to hold property, make contracts, and sue (and be sued). However, I contend that even assuming that conferring personhood on AIs finds widespread consensus, its implementation requires solving a coordination problem, determined by three asymmetries: technological, intra-legal systems, and inter-legal systems. I address the coordination problem through conceptual analysis and metaphysical explanation. I first frame legal personhood as a node of inferential links between factual preconditions and legal effects. Yet, this inferentialist reading does not account for the ‘background reasons’, i.e., it does not explain why we group divergent situations under legal personality and how extra-legal information is integrated into it. One way to account for this background is to adopt a neo-institutional perspective and update its ontology of legal concepts with further layers: the meta-institutional and the intermediate. Under this reading, the semantic referent of legal concepts is institutional reality. So, I use notions of analytical metaphysics, such as grounding and anchoring, to explain the origins and constituent elements of legal personality as an institutional kind. Finally, I show that the integration of conceptual and metaphysical analysis can provide the toolkit for finding an equilibrium around the legal-policy choices that are involved in including (or not including) AIs among legal persons.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Novelli, Claudio
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
legal personhood; AI; neoinstitutionalism; conceptual analysis; metaphysics;
Data di discussione
16 Giugno 2022

Altri metadati

Statistica sui download

Gestione del documento: Visualizza la tesi