A New ‘Species’ Of Legal Subject: AI-Led Corporate Entities, Requiring Interspecific Legal Frameworks


For the first time in human history, say Daniel Gervais and John Nay in a Policy Forum, nonhuman entities that are not directed by humans – such as artificial intelligence (AI)-operated corporations – should enter the legal system as a new “species” of legal subject.

AI has evolved to the point where it could function as a legal subject with rights and obligations, say the authors. As such, before the issue becomes too complex and difficult to disentangle, “interspecific” legal frameworks need to be developed by which AI can be treated as legal subjects, they write.

Until now, the legal system has been univocal – it allows only humans to speak to its design and use. Nonhuman legal subjects like animals have necessarily instantiated their rights through human proxies. However, their inclusion is less about defining and protecting the rights and responsibilities of these nonhuman subjects and more a vehicle for addressing human interests and obligations as it relates to them.

In the United States, corporations are recognized as “artificial persons” within the legal system. However, the laws of some jurisdictions do not always explicitly require corporate entities to have human owners or managers at their helm. Thus, by law, nothing generally prevents an AI from operating a corporate entity.

Here, Gervais and Nay highlight the rapidly realizing concept of AI-operated “zero-member LLCs” – or a corporate entity operating autonomously without any direct human involvement in the process. The authors discuss several pathways in which such AI-operated LLCs and their actions could be handled within the legal system.

As the idea of ceasing AI development and use is highly unrealistic, Gervais and Nay discuss other options, including regulating AI by treating the machines as legally inferior to humans or engineering AI systems to be law-abiding and bringing them into the legal fold now before it becomes too complicated to do so.

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