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Personhood Beyond the Human: On “Personhood for Artificial Agents to animals’ rights”

On December 8, 2013 Samir Chopra spoke on “Personhood for Artificial Agents: What it teaches us about animals’ rights” at the Personhood Beyond the Human conference at Yale University.

Samir Chopra is Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He earned a BA in Mathematical Statistics from Delhi University (1984), an MS in Computer Science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (1990) and a PhD in Philosophy from the City University of New York (2000).

He has worked on logics for belief revision and merging; his current research interests include pragmatism, Nietzsche, the philosophical foundations of artificial intelligence, philosophy of law, the legal theory of artificial agents, and the politics and ethics of technology. Samir is a blogger at The Cordon, ESPN-Cricinfo, and at He can also be found at: and on Twitter as @EyeOnThePitch.

The Personhood Beyond the Human conference was organized by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University, Yale’s Animal Ethics Group and Yale’s Technology and Ethics Group.

Abstract: For the past few years, I have presented arguments based on my book, A Legal Theory for Autonomous Artificial Agents, which suggest that legal and perhaps even moral and metaphysical personhood for artificial agents is not a conceptual impossibility. In some cases, a form of dependent legal personality might even be possible in today’s legal frameworks for such entities.

As I have presented these arguments, I have encountered many objections to them.In this talk, I will examine some of these objections as they have taught me a great deal about how personhood for artificial agents is relevant to the question of human beings’ relationships with animals. I will conclude with the claims that a) advocating personhood for artificial agents should not be viewed as an anti-humanistic perspective and b) rather, it should allow us to assess the question of animals’ rights more sympathetically.

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