An android dreams up electric sheep – should machine inventors have rights?

Since DeepBlue defeated Gary Kaparov at chess in 1996, the idea that human intelligence could not be matched by machine has been thoroughly undermined. At the time, it was commonly thought that chess was the pinnacle of human intellectual ability, which a computer could never match. Today, few would argue that a human could outperform a computer, at least in a closed system like chess.

The reality is that machines are no longer just limited to beating human beings at their own games, but also have the capability for their own creation. Artificial Intelligence has evolved to the extent that computers can generate unique ideas – known as Computer Generated Invention (CGI) – which means that machines are now fulfilling the role of inventor.

For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, clinical drug trials are beginning to be simulated by software, which means that in theory a machine could be responsible for the next big medical breakthrough. In fact, given the pace of development in computers it might not be long before computer generated inventions outnumber human generated inventions. This does, however raise some issues. For example, if a machine does invent the next wonder drug, who has the intellectual property rights?
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