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 10: Trigger events

Mark Chinen


At the end of the trajectory, as autonomous technologies become more sophisticated, one can imagine a number of possible scenarios, each of them involving different ways of how humans and machines will coexist. However, the trajectory of the coevolution of legal responsibility and autonomous machines needs to be cabined to some extent. The law already treats complex systems, albeit with concepts borrowed heavily from individual legal and moral responsibility. It is only if society feels it is necessary to become finer grained in assigning responsibility, to move from largescale entities who design and manufacture autonomous machines and systems to individual designers and engineers who could be said to have contributed to the defects that led to harms and to individuals in the chain of command who use autonomous machines, that the problems of associational responsibility become more keenly felt. At the same time, some commentators and policymakers are calling for exactly this kind of accountability. This in turn serves as an impetus for changes in legal responsibility, but perhaps more likely, as an impetus for more sophisticated machines. Specific proposals seem inapt given the possible length of the trajectory plotted here, but there are points along the way that merit particular attention: the achievement of general intelligence is the most significant, but before then, we will want to pay careful attention when the first set of cases involving autonomous technologies are decided and when concrete steps are taken to give legal personhood to artificial agents.

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