Viewing Artificial Persons in the AI Age Through the Lens of History

Lee, P.W, Langford, R.T. and Godwin, A, Technology and Corporate Law: How Innovation Shapes Corporate Activity (Edward Elgar, forthcoming 2021)

The University of Auckland Business School Research Paper

European Corporate Governance Institute - Law Working Paper No. 569/2021

Posted: 20 Nov 2020 Last revised: 27 Aug 2021

See all articles by Susan Watson

Susan Watson

University of Auckland Business School; European Corporate Governance Institute

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

With talk of driverless companies and bots substituting for human beings on company boards either in part or completely, the spectre of a future controlled by entities devoid of human beings is upon us. But has the future been here for longer than we all realise; has the corporation really changed? In this chapter it is argued that the modern business corporation has been separate from human beings since the 17th century. Developments in the English East India Company during that century meant functional separation followed legal separation, as boards were charged to act in the interests of the capital of the shareholders rather than the shareholders themselves. In closely held corporations, and for periods through history, the functional separation has reduced for a time. The trend through history, though, is towards separation precisely because that separation, combined with boards constrained to act in their interests, means corporations grow and prosper at least financially. The shift to artificial legal persons being controlled by other artificial entities is not therefore as radical as it might appear to be. This chapter will discuss the challenges that artificial intelligence (‘AI’) presents for corporate governance and will set the context for specific issues examined in the chapters that follow.

Keywords: Corporate governance, corporate law, corporate theory, Artificial Intelligence, Innovation

JEL Classification: K22

Suggested Citation

Watson, Susan Mary, Viewing Artificial Persons in the AI Age Through the Lens of History (2020). Lee, P.W, Langford, R.T. and Godwin, A, Technology and Corporate Law: How Innovation Shapes Corporate Activity (Edward Elgar, forthcoming 2021) , The University of Auckland Business School Research Paper, European Corporate Governance Institute - Law Working Paper No. 569/2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3734009

Susan Mary Watson (Contact Author)

University of Auckland Business School ( email )

12 Grafton Rd
Private Bag 92019
Auckland, 1010
New Zealand

European Corporate Governance Institute ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels
Belgium

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

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
528
PlumX Metrics