Life and the Law in the Era of Data-Driven Agency
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Life and the Law in the Era of Data-Driven Agency

Edited by Mireille Hildebrandt and Kieron O’Hara

This ground-breaking and timely book explores how big data, artificial intelligence and algorithms are creating new types of agency, and the impact that this is having on our lives and the rule of law. Addressing the issues in a thoughtful, cross-disciplinary manner, leading scholars in law, philosophy, computer science and politics examine the ways in which data-driven agency is transforming democratic practices and the meaning of individual choice.
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Chapter 13: In the hall of masks: Contrasting modes of personification

Niels van Dijk


The European Parliament has recently proposed to grant robots the special legal status of electronic personhood to directly attribute them liability for damage they have caused. The proposal moves this idea from science fiction to possible legal reality. This chapter will reflect upon the underlying notion of personhood by exploring a variety of ways in which persons have been used as doubles for individuals: dramatic persons as masks on stage, juristic persons as fictions with effects, political persons unifying a multitude, average persons as statistical realities, profile persons as machine-generated group portraits, and digital persons as individual data portraits or smart agents. We will make a profile for each of these modes of personification to study the diverse ways persons have been given conceptual meaning and visual sense. This juxtaposition will put each type in contrast to find differences between their prominent attributes, pertaining to: the means by which they are composed, the actors wearing the masks (representors), what can be done with them (affordances), and the representative relation between person and subject. These contrasts can then in turn be used to judge the new entry of the electronic person in the existent hall of masks.

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