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Digital Specific Property of Robots:

A Historical Suggestion from Roman Law


Takashi Izumo


Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, AI, Robotics, Personhood, Robots, Roman Law, Peculium, Digital Peculium, Slaves, Digital Specific Property, Electronic Personhood, Liability

Modern technology calls for the judicial integration of robots into our society as well as their functional integration. Some scholars and industrialists argue that robots might possess their own property and should pay tax; however, it seems premature to grant an electronic personhood to robots at their current technological level. Therefore, another legal institution is needed. With this in mind Pagallo suggests that the concept of ‘specific property’ (peculium), which was given to Roman slaves, could be applied to highly developed robots. He calls it digital peculium (DP). In this paper, I explain what peculium was in Roman law and compare it with some future regulations for an autonomous taxicab to clarify the similarity and differences between the Roman peculium and DP. Two merits of the introduction of DP are found in my study. First, a robot may have its own DP although it has no personhood. Second, substantive regulations, which were applied to Roman slaves for supporting their masters and creditors, may be reused without destroying the current legal system. In conclusion, it becomes clear that DP is useful as a chrysalis legal institution for supervising robots before they become autonomous in the truest sense of the word.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. jur. Takashi Izumo, Faculty of Law, Asahi University Japan. For correspondence: <>


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