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 7: Law-abiding machines and systems

Mark Chinen


The impasses discussed at the conclusions of Chapters 5 and 6 (as well as the simple desire to avoid liability) in part motivate the second strategy to close possible gaps between machines and harms caused by them: to reduce harm by designing autonomous machines and systems that “obey” the law. At this point, of course, autonomous technologies are not cognizant of the law and do not subjectively “appreciate” or “value” it; all we can do is program machines and systems to operate in ways that conform to the law. That challenge is daunting because of the nature of the law itself, but researchers are trying. As they do so, this raises issues as to who is competent to interpret the law. In this regard, work on using artificial intelligence in the practice of law sets an outer bound for how sophisticated machines and systems might be developed to take the law into account in their behaviors, although it is an open question whether we would want artificial technologies to have that level of legal sophistication. In any event, if designers succeed in developing machines and systems that comply with the law, we might find that they will set standards of care that humans will not be able to reach without the help of those very technologies.

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