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Insects, AI systems, and the future of legal personhood

When: Friday, December 1, 2023, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Where: Online or Room 313, Third Floor, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS

This paper makes a case for insect and AI legal personhood. Humans share the world not only with large animals like chimpanzees and elephants but also with small animals like ants and bees. In the future, we might also share the world with sentient or otherwise morally significant AI systems. These realities raise questions about what kind of legal status insects, AI systems, and other nonhumans should have in the future. At present, debates about legal personhood mostly exclude these kinds of individuals. However, I argue that our current framework for assessing legal personhood, coupled with our current framework for assessing risk and uncertainty, imply that we should treat these kinds of individuals as legal persons. I also argue that we have good reason to accept this conclusion rather than alter these frameworks.

Respondent: Malgosia Fitzmaurice, Queen Mary


Jeff Sebo

Jeff Sebo is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University. There he is also Affiliated Professor of Bioethics, Medical Ethics, Philosophy, and Law. He directs the Animal Studies M.A. Program, and the Mind, Ethics, and Policy Program. He also co-directs the Wild Animal Welfare Program. He researches in moral philosophy, legal philosophy, and the philosophy of mind. He is the author of The Moral Circle (WW Norton 2024) and Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves (Oxford 2022).

Malgosia Fitzmaurice

Professor Malgosia Fitzmaurice holds a chair of public international law at the Department of Law, Queen Mary University of London. Since 2019 she has been elected an Associate Member of the Institue de Droit International and in 2021 she was awarded the Doctorate Honoris Causa of the University of Neuchâtel. She specialises in international environmental law; the law of treaties; and indigenous peoples. She publishes widely on these subjects.

Lunch will be served from 1.30 PM in the same venue.

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