Hot topic: Regulating robotics
Updated 24/09/14 Do robots need to be regulated? Several legal and policy experts think that robot regulations should be developed early and revised often. Others – especially those working on research and development – worry that regulation could put a damper on advancement in robotics before it even has a chance to take off. At Robohub we’ve been following this topic closely and are planning to bring you more views on the issue – so watch this space. In the meantime, check out these recent articles and reports on regulating robots .
The main goal of the RoboLaw project is to achieve a comprehensive study of the various facets of robotics and law and lay the groundwork for a framework of “robolaw” in Europe. When there is no specific legislation aimed at regulating these new technologies, the problems they pose need to be confronted in the frame of extant legal systems; an objective of the research is, therefore, to verify the applicability of current rules and use the present instruments and categories to formulate possible solutions. This preliminary investigation will also point towards areas of regulation that are in need of adjustment or revision in order to accommodate the issues opened up by innovation in the field of robotics.
If there are two general principles that unify my recent work on technology policy and innovation issues, they would be as follows. To the maximum extent possible:
1) We should avoid preemptive and precautionary-based regulatory regimes for new innovation. Instead, our policy default should be innovation allowed (or “permissionless innovation”) and innovators should be considered “innocent until proven guilty” (unless, that is, a thorough benefit-cost analysis has been conducted that documents the clear need for immediate preemptive restraints);
2) We should avoid rigid, “top-down” technology-specific or sector-specific regulatory regimes and/or regulatory agencies and instead opt for a broader array of more flexible, “bottom-up” solutions (education, empowerment, social norms, self-regulation, public pressure, etc.) as well as reliance on existing legal systems and standards (torts, product liability, contracts, property rights, etc.).
Some people are saying that it’s time to regulate robots. But it’s hard to determine how to regulate this technology when there is precious little agreement on what constitutes a robot When a prestigious organization such as the Brookings Institution here in the nation’s capital decides to study civilian robotics, you know that at the very least the organization will present some thought-provoking views. In that sense, Brookings delivered. Unfortunately, the analysts who were delivering the results of their studies on the Future of Civilian Robotics have yet to agree what actually constitutes robotics.
The case for a federal robotics commission
| Ryan Calo
September 14, 2014
I have argued in a series of papers that robotics enables novel forms of human experience and, as such, challenges prevailing assumptions of law and policy.5 My focus here is on a more specific question: whether robotics, collectively as a set of technologies, will or should occasion the establishment of a new federal agency to deal with the novel experiences and harms robotics enables. In this paper, I explore whether advances in robotics also call for a standalone body within the federal government. I tentatively conclude that the United States would benefit from an agency dedicated to the responsible integration of robotics technologies into American society.
Economists and historians traditionally claim that the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution led to the creation of a large middle class in the United States. That’s only partly true. The technology certainly made that middle class possible, but the legal innovations that we created following the Industrial Revolution made possible the widespread prosperity of the mid-20th century American middle class: minimum wage laws, child labor laws, laws protecting unions, regulations governing workplace safety and environmental protection, etc. All of these laws tried to help average Americans benefit from the new system that the Industrial Revolution introduced. But those laws took 100 years. We don’t get that much time anymore.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below, or contact us at info [at] robohub.org if you would like to contribute to our upcoming series.