Are Autonomous Entities Possible?

114 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 23 (2019)

25 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2019

See all articles by Shawn Bayern

Shawn Bayern

Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: June 24, 2019


Over the last few years, I have demonstrated how modern business-entity statutes, particularly LLC statutes, can give software the basic capabilities of legal personhood, such as the ability to enter contracts or own property. Not surprisingly, this idea has been met with some resistance. This Essay responds to one kind of descriptive objection to my arguments: that courts will find some way to prevent the results I describe either because my reading of the business-entity statutes would take us too far outside our legal experience, or because courts will be afraid that robots will take over the world, or because law is meant to promote human (versus nonhuman) rights. As I demonstrate in this essay, such objections are not correct as a descriptive matter. These arguments make moral and policy assumptions that are probably incorrect, face intractable line-drawing problems, and dramatically overestimate the ease of challenging statutorily valid business structures. Business-entity law has always accommodated change, and the extensions to conventional law that I have identified are not as radical as they seem. Moreover, the transactional techniques I advocate for would likely just need to succeed in one jurisdiction, and regardless, there are many alternative techniques that, practically speaking, would achieve the same results.

Keywords: autonomous systems, robots, artificial intelligence, business law, organizational law, LLCs, limited liability companies, shelf LLCs, zero-member LLCs, legal personhood, legal personality, personhood

JEL Classification: K20, K40

Suggested Citation

Bayern, Shawn J., Are Autonomous Entities Possible? (June 24, 2019). 114 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 23 (2019), Available at SSRN:

Shawn J. Bayern (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics