Artificial agents among us: Should we recognize them as agents proper? Articles uri icon



publication date

  • March 2017

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 17


  • 1


  • 19

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1388-1957

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1572-8439


  • In this paper, I discuss whether in a society where the use of artificial agents is pervasive, these agents should be recognized as having rights like those we accord to group agents. This kind of recognition I understand to be at once social and legal, and I argue that in order for an artificial agent to be so recognized, it will need to meet the same basic conditions in light of which group agents are granted such recognition. I then explore the implications of granting recognition in this manner. The thesis I will be defending is that artificial agents that do meet the conditions of agency in light of which we ascribe rights to group agents should thereby be recognized as having similar rights. The reason for bringing group agents into the picture is that, like artificial agents, they are not self-evidently agents of the sort to which we would naturally ascribe rights, or at least that is what the historical record suggests if we look, for example, at what it took for corporations to gain legal status in the law as group agents entitled to rights and, consequently, as entities subject to responsibilities. This is an example of agency ascribed to a nonhuman agent, and just as a group agent can be described as nonhuman, so can an artificial agent. Therefore, if these two kinds of nonhuman agents can be shown to be sufficiently similar in relevant ways, the agency ascribed to one can also be ascribed to the other-this despite the fact that neither is human, a major impediment when it comes to recognizing an entity as an agent proper, and hence as a bearer of rights.


  • Law
  • Philosophy


  • agency; group agen; artificial agen; rights; responsibility; personhood; rationality