Are Autonomous Entities Possible?
114 Nw. U. L. Rev. Online 23 (2019)
25 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2019
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: Suggested Citation