Law and Autonomous Machines
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Law and Autonomous Machines

The Co-evolution of Legal Responsibility and Technology

Mark Chinen

This book sets out a possible trajectory for the co-development of legal responsibility on the one hand and artificial intelligence and the machines and systems driven by it on the other. As autonomous technologies become more sophisticated it will be harder to attribute harms caused by them to the humans who design or work with them. This will put pressure on legal responsibility and autonomous technologies to co-evolve. Mark Chinen illustrates how these factors strengthen incentives to develop even more advanced systems, which in turn strengthens nascent calls to grant legal and moral status to autonomous machines. This book is a valuable resource for scholars and practitioners of legal doctrine, ethics, and autonomous technologies.
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Chapter 5: Reframing responsibility

Mark Chinen


One strategy to address the issues raised by the legal and moral emphasis on individual responsibility is to refine or alter the concept of responsibility itself. Such attempts come from a number of perspectives. One is to rely more on concepts that underlie strict liability. Another is to disaggregate responsibility into its various components, for example, responsibility understood as identifying an agent as contributing to a particular harm on the one hand and having the agent suffer consequences because of that contribution on the other. This strategy is amenable to another approach that centers more on the victim of harm than on the perpetrator. An approach focusing on the victim provides a natural segue to systems like commercial and social insurance. It is almost certain that insurance will be used to compensate injured parties and will play an important role in responding to harm caused by autonomous machines. At the same time, insurance has its limitations because of the inherent problem of moral hazard and adverse selection for commercial insurance and because it does not perform the more punitive or retributive functions of holding someone responsible for a harm. Similarly, attempts to emphasize other aspects of responsibility and to deemphasize its more punitive aspects will succeed only to the extent that we are willing to forego blame and punishment when harms occur.

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