One day, robots will present difficult legal challenges. This seems to be the consensus among commentators. And who am I to disagree? I have myself argued, right here on the digital pages of Slate, that robotics will generate no fewer puzzles for the law than the last transformative technology of our time—the Internet. Future courts will have to decide, for instance, whether a home robot manufacturer is responsible for the apps that run on it and whether to hold anyone accountable for robot behavior no one intended or foresaw.
Nearly 60 years of American case law indicate that while robot technology has been developing by leaps and bounds, the courts’ concept of robots is confused and largely stuck in the past. If we are to depend on our legal systems for clarity — especially as new technologies take us into uncharted territory — the courts will need partner closely with technology experts to develop a more nuanced understanding of robotics. Legal scholar Ryan Calo shows us the way.
UPDATED 4 Mar: We’re sad to report that Professor Tony Dyson, who built the original Star Wars R2-D2 droid, has died. We’re reposting this excellent video of his keynote at WeRobot to highlight his contribution to the field of robotics and culture.
I suggest that our current robotics policy agenda needs to be reformed and better informed. This article provides a review of some recent policy reports and considers the changing shape of 21st century scientific debate.