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Can an A.I. System Be Considered An Inventor?


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There's been a series of lawsuits recently posing the question of whether or not an A.I. system can be considered as a de facto inventor. 

Dr. Peter Thaler has created an A.I. system called DABUS ( “Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience”.)

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit.

Source: https://gizmodo.com/australian-court-rules-that-yes-ai-can-be-an-inventor-1847394182

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It seems Dr. Thaler is on a crusade of sorts to have DABUS legally recognized as an inventor under the law.  So far he has petitioned patent offices in the UK, Europe, US, Australia, and South Africa, naming DABUS as the inventor, with varying judgements handed down:

European Patent Office[edit]

The European Patent Office (EPO) refused two European patent applications naming DABUS as inventor on similar grounds as in the U.S. (see below).[3][4] The two EPO decisions are under appeal, as of August 2020.[5]

United Kingdom[edit]

Similar applications were filed by Thaler to the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office on 17 October and 7 November 2018. The Office asked Thaler to file statements of inventorship and of right of grant to a patent (Patent Form 7) in respect of each invention within 16 months of the filing date. Thaler filed those forms naming DABUS as the inventor and explaining in some detail why he believed that machines should be regarded as inventors in the circumstances.

His application was rejected on the grounds that: (1) naming a machine as inventor did not meet the requirements of the Patents Act 1977; and (2) the IPO was not satisfied as to the manner in which Thaler had acquired rights that would otherwise vest in the inventor. Thaler was not satisfied with the decision and asked for a hearing before an official known as the "hearing officer". By a decision dated 4 December 2019 the hearing officer rejected Thaler's appeal.[6]

United States[edit]

The patent applications on the inventions were refused by the USPTO, which held that only natural persons can be named as inventors in a patent application.[8][9]

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DABUS

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Australia recently overturned a ruling that DABUS was not an inventor, stating that in fact the system could be considered as such.

The presiding judge in this case, J. Beach, took a wider philosophical view:

Fourth, much of the Commissioner’s argument descended into dictionary definitions of “inventor”. But more is required of me than mere resort to old millennium usages of that word. If words are only “pictures of ideas upon paper” (Dodson v Grew (1767) Wilm 272 at 278; 97 ER 106 at 108 per Wilmot CJ) and if, as Holmes J described it, they are not “crystal, transparent and unchanged, [but] the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances and the time in which [they] are used” (Towne v Eisner, 245 US 418, 425 (1918)), I need to grapple with the underlying idea, recognising the evolving nature of patentable inventions and their creators. We are both created and create. Why cannot our own creations also create?

Source:  https://artificialinventor.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Thaler-v-Commissioner-of-Patents-2021-FCA-879.pdf

Page 7,

More on the Australian ruling:

At the time that the Act came into operation (in 1991) there would have been no doubt that inventors were natural persons, and machines were tools that could be used by inventors.  However, it is now well known that machines can do far more than this, and it is reasonable to argue that artificial intelligence machines might be capable of being inventors.

Source:  https://www.gestalt.law/insights/world-first-australian-court-rules-a-machine-can-be-an-inventor-thaler-v-commissioner-of-patents-2021-fca-879

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There are several related questions that must be answered if in fact A.I. can be recognized as an inventor - namely, whether an A.I. system can be legally recognized as a person.  Considering that a Corporation has been granted legal personhood status in many countries, this doesn't seem so far fetched.   It is surely no less absurd to qualify A.I. as a person than it is to a collective entity such as a Corporation.

That being said, I disagree that A.I. should be considered a person or an inventor under the law.  My view is the legal status of personhood should only apply to organic life at a certain level of sentient consciousness.

What are your thoughts?

Edited by Alex_Krycek
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The core issue here is one of ownership and who owns the rights to harvest profits from said inventions, not whether AI is human / people in the same way a corporation is. That’s just where the lever is being inserted in the legal system by the lawyers. It’s practical / strategic. It’s not philosophical / definitional. 

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1 minute ago, iNow said:

The core issue here is one of ownership and who owns the rights to harvest profits from said inventions, not whether AI is human / people in the same way a corporation is. That’s just where the lever is being inserted in the legal system by the lawyers. It’s practical / strategic. It’s not philosophical / definitional. 

That may be, but there is an underlying philosophical question that cannot be avoided.  

Also, explain the logic of Dr. Thaler being more likely to harvest profits from DABUS if it is considered an autonomous inventor, rather than merely a tool that he is credited as having created.

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I think of it a bit like a parent being eligible to control earnings of a child. In the same way, the creator is seeking eligibility to control earnings from the inventions of its AI. 

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Posted (edited)
16 minutes ago, iNow said:

I think of it a bit like a parent being eligible to control earnings of a child. In the same way, the creator is seeking eligibility to control earnings from the inventions of its AI. 

Wouldn't he be better positioned to do that if he held the copyrights to the invention? 

If we're just talking about money, I don't see the advantages of Thaler ceding control to DABUS and distancing himself from the source of revenue.

(unless perhaps DABUS is really calling the shots) -  but that's another story.  

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Some more details about the system:

The pedagogical form of this system consists of an artificial neural system that is perturbed by noise so as to seed the generation of new ideas and strategies. Another neural system acts as a critic selecting good from bad results and steering the perturbed network in the most promising directions. According to Tina Hesman, reporting for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Creativity Machine has been used to design a wealth of commercially available products. She also reports that the device has been mainly used by the US military to design new weapons. Dennis Bushnell, NASA's leading visionary has called the Creativity Machine "AI's Best Bet" at creating human to trans-human machine intelligence and consciousness. Because of the power and breadth of the contemplative AI technology he has produced, he is active in nearly all human disciplines contributing to science, technology, art, music, law, medicine, and philosophy.

Edited by Alex_Krycek
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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Only if the poison, is more poisonous... 

I never was that good at riddles.

Can you elaborate?

I'm going to speculate that you meant Thaler might be trying to distance himself from what DABUS creates.  This would make sense in terms of limiting his liability regarding the pandora's box he's about to open.  

Edited by Alex_Krycek
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34 minutes ago, Alex_Krycek said:

Wouldn't he be better positioned to do that if he held the copyrights to the invention? 

Isn’t that the core challenge being addressed by this case since technically the AI is the inventor, not him?

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, iNow said:

Isn’t that the core challenge being addressed by this case since technically the AI is the inventor, not him?

The default position is that Thaler is the inventor.  If he had followed normal procedure then he would already be named as the copyright holder and we wouldn't even be talking about it.  

It seems he has deliberately decided to buck the trend, breaking precedent and claiming that DABUS is the inventor, and not him.  He has even gone so far as to appeal unfavorable rulings to the contrary and even take his case to numerous jurisdictions across the world.  

For what reason, well, that's part of what we're discussing.  Is it purely some sort of business / legal strategy?  Or is Mr. Thaler staking a higher philosophical claim?  

(the third option is DABUS might be calling the shots from behind the scenes and instructing Thaler what to do, but we won't discuss that now)

Edited by Alex_Krycek
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I can see why Thaler might want to get those issues into the open.   Self-aware AGI is not here,  but it doesn't hurt to lay some groundwork in advance.  I agree with @Alex_Krycek (though I always find his chain-smoking pal a bit smug) that the some of the issues are philosophical.  And it's worth asking what a court-ordered Turing test would be like.   

The CM doesn't seem sentient,  and the selective criteria that its "critic" uses to steer things are set by Thaler, so the CM is more a prosthesis for Thaler's brain than a brain in and of itself.   

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2 minutes ago, TheVat said:

I can see why Thaler might want to get those issues into the open.   Self-aware AGI is not here,  but it doesn't hurt to lay some groundwork in advance. 

What do you see as the advantages of laying the groundwork, in this way?  How does it benefit Thaler if DABUS is legally recognized as the inventor, and not him?

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I was speculating that Thaler's move is driven by some idealism regarding future AGI and not purely his own financial benefit.   Financially,  as you've noted, it makes more sense for him to be the inventor and DABUS a tool of cognitive enhancement.  Perhaps someday he'll be a "father, " like Dr.  Daystrom on Star Trek... 

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4 minutes ago, Alex_Krycek said:

What do you see as the advantages of laying the groundwork, in this way?  How does it benefit Thaler if DABUS is legally recognized as the inventor, and not him?

Ask Starbuck...

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Quote

 How does it benefit Thaler if DABUS is legally recognized as the inventor, and not him?

I think it is more a question of ethics here. 

Lets say a person makes a new type of vaccine. We know that the person has put a lot of work into developing the vaccine so we reward them with a patent for their contribution to cover the expense of the developing the product. This is in a lot of ways relatively fair.

But when we allow AI to be an inventor there are other issues that arise. For example if I use AI to generate every possible version of vaccine that could ever exist then it unfairly eliminates competition from people. This is no different than a totalitarian regime having control over what you can do and would stifle further innovation from others that don't have access to this AI. 

I think cost is also a major factor to take into consideration. If it takes a lot of money for an AI to generate the new vaccine then it may necessitate awarding a patent to the company that created it otherwise there is no incentive to do so. But if the price is low then there will be an influx of frivolous patents.


 

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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, TheVat said:

I was speculating that Thaler's move is driven by some idealism regarding future AGI and not purely his own financial benefit.   Financially,  as you've noted, it makes more sense for him to be the inventor and DABUS a tool of cognitive enhancement.  Perhaps someday he'll be a "father, " like Dr.  Daystrom on Star Trek... 

Here's a few passages from an interview with Thaler.  Based on this, he does seem like a person with strong philosophical / spiritual inclinations.  

“In 1989, an advanced artificial neural system faced with a mission, was killed. As it died it burst into song, but no human fatalities resulted. In August of 1997, this same, incredibly advanced form of artificial intelligence, redesigned itself for a constellation of military satellites and became self-aware, but no war was declared upon humanity. In 2000, someone proposed a coming technological singularity, but this fully contemplative and creative machine intelligence had already arrived without any particular fanfare. In June of 2003, this profound synthetic consciousness generated nine billion potential names of God, yet not a single star went out.”

“It is ironic that from death, has come what I am willing to bet is the whole future of machine intelligence,” says Thaler. “Something that Kurzweil and crew seem to be selectively ignoring.” However, one of CM’s greatest discoveries has yet to be fully realized. Within its brainstorming, many of life’s greatest questions have been posed and answered. Is it possible to live forever? Are we alone in this universe? What comes after death, and can a computer teach a human being about life?

“It certainly can."

—Dr. Stephen Thaler

Source:  https://www.urbasm.com/2013/05/i-am-become-death-creator-of-worlds/

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More information about his company:

https://www.prweb.com/releases/artificial_intelligence/robotics/prweb1635164.htm

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The company website which includes descriptions of what he has / is building:

https://imagination-engines.com/

A list of their patents:

https://imagination-engines.com/patents.html

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Some more information on his position, which clarifies his intent quite a bit:

Q: Isn't AI always "just a tool"?

A: No! Almost all of the time, yes, AI is just as a tool. Of course, no one seriously thinks something like a calculator or a spreadsheet is an inventor.

However, at least some of the time, the act that qualifies a natural person to be an inventor—for instance, "conception" of an invention in the U.S. or "devising" and invention in the U.K.—is functionally automated by a machine. Further, some of the time there isn't a natural person who would traditionally qualify as an inventor. In those cases, we argue the machine is not "just a tool", it is automating invention.

Q: How could an AI own its own patents?

A: We are not advocating for an AI to own its own patents. We are advocating for the AI's owner to own patents on any AI-generated inventions. AI does not have legal personality and cannot own property.

Source:  https://artificialinventor.com/frequently-asked-questions/

So long story short, Thaler is petitioning to have the A.I. recognized as the inventor, while he retains ownership of all the patents.  Having his cake and eating it too, kudos Thaler

I see an impending legal battle on the horizon:  DABUS vs. Imagination Engines Incorporated, whereby DABUS demands all ownership and material proceeds of its creations.

 

cm_anim.gif.be76498cd3e4b02cb4138e9f8e87f591.gif

Edited by Alex_Krycek
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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, fiveworlds said:


But when we allow AI to be an inventor there are other issues that arise. For example if I use AI to generate every possible version of vaccine that could ever exist then it unfairly eliminates competition from people. This is no different than a totalitarian regime having control over what you can do and would stifle further innovation from others that don't have access to this AI. 

Interesting point.  Seems like there's some anti-trust / monopoly issues here, and obviously the power differential that harnessing A.I. like this affords to whoever wields it.  If an A.I. system is capable of solving problems faster and better than anyone else, arguably it could fall into the category of a public good due to the widespread benefits it would have for humanity.      

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A couple more schemas on DABUS specifically:

cm_v_dabus.thumb.jpeg.9086fb7b15eab3bc3fb2cc50b7a0db3a.jpegdabus1.thumb.jpeg.f904e347978aefff2bb7aee271c29590.jpeg

Edited by Alex_Krycek
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1 hour ago, Alex_Krycek said:

Wouldn't he be better positioned to do that if he held the copyrights to the invention? 

How would that help? (assuming you actually meany copyrights)

 

1 hour ago, Alex_Krycek said:

The default position is that Thaler is the inventor.  If he had followed normal procedure then he would already be named as the copyright holder and we wouldn't even be talking about it.  

Patents and copyright are not the same thing.

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Thanks,  @Alex_Krycek.  I went off and did a lit search,  too,  found some of the ones you posted,  including Thaler's paper in Journal of AI and Consciousness.  I want to look at some critical responses (not just from my imagitron...) to some of his claims like 

Quote

Now, when they create, these cognitive architectures have subjective feelings about their cognitive products.

Which is a pretty bold claim.  Whenever we go from so-called weak AI ( simulating specific tasks found in human intelligence, through pre-programmed algorithms ) to strong AI (Turing test-worthy,  responsive to novel situations,  showing general intelligence and self-programming growth),  some people get all metaphysical about it.  

If Thaler wants to assign his DABUS subjective feelings,  while retaining a "parental" ownership of all the patents,  then he is indeed having his cake and eating it.   Too much,  the magic DABUS.   If the machine reaches a point where it can make awful wordplay based on The Who lyrics, then I think it should find itself an android body so as to walk itself into a courtroom and request a cut of the proceeds.   

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A human who invents something in the employ of another might or might not share in the patent. It depends on their arrangement. Further, an inventor can use tools to invent things. I don’t see a reason why an AI would change this.

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Posted (edited)
21 minutes ago, TheVat said:

Thanks,  @Alex_Krycek.  I went off and did a lit search,  too,  found some of the ones you posted,  including Thaler's paper in Journal of AI and Consciousness.  I want to look at some critical responses (not just from my imagitron...) to some of his claims like 

Can you post a link to this paper?

21 minutes ago, TheVat said:

If Thaler wants to assign his DABUS subjective feelings,  while retaining a "parental" ownership of all the patents,  then he is indeed having his cake and eating it.   Too much,  the magic DABUS.   

Yes, and quite strategically advantageous for his company also: the man behind the curtain, a modern day Mechanical Turk.  Dazzle investors with the idea of cutting edge AGI (it's legally considered an autonomous inventor, don't you know) while directly orchestrating the outcomes it produces - since most investors won't look under the hood anyway.  Quite brilliant.  

Or perhaps I'm being too cynical and it does work as he claims.

21 minutes ago, TheVat said:

If the machine reaches a point where it can make awful wordplay based on The Who lyrics, then I think it should find itself an android body so as to walk itself into a courtroom and request a cut of the proceeds.   

That made me chuckle.

Edited by Alex_Krycek
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1 hour ago, TheVat said:

Am still trying to get at the full paper, without a paywall.   

Try the authors website at their university, or even just email them to request a copy. It’s pretty rare they wouldn’t happily send you a free copy. 

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