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Robotics and the Law
Robotics and the Law

Liberating Intelligent Machines with Financial Instruments

Bit Bang – rays to the future

I was one of the lucky ones selected to participate in Bit Bang 1 – the first multidisciplinary doctoral course organized by the MIDE research program. During the academic year 2008-2009, we draw up roadmaps describing future technology trends until the year 2025. On top of lectures, textbooks and group assignments, we made a study tour to the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University and visited a number of high-technology companies in Silicon Valley. The joint publication comprising our reports can be found here.

Among other things, we predicted that the industry of delay (= lawyers) will most likely be forced to commit to the legal status of robots. The status of artificially intelligent agents has been debated amongst the Artificial Intelligence (AI) scholars since 1990s. Recently a British Government Report anticipated a “monumental shift” in the area of robo-rights once robots become sufficiently intelligent.

In our cross-multidisciplinary group, I was the only lawyer. Obviously, I had no other choice than to take those predictions seriously and become committed to the legal status of robots. Nowadays, I am writing my LL.D. thesis on the social and legal ramifications of robotics.

From fiction to execution

Bit Bang participants were encouraged to think radically. We tried to predict long-term development and impacts of digitalization. During the spring term, our group was given the research topic “intelligent machines”. As a result of our collaboration, we ended up writing a book chapter entitled “Augmenting Man”.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter (Bit Bang – rays to the future, p. 256):

“The text above describes radioactive fallout after the Chernobyl disaster. In 1979, the inherent risk of nuclear energy was realized with well-known consequences. Nuclear energy is a peaceful side effect of the Manhattan project. Even though the purpose for which nuclear technology was used was within the legitimate interests of our human society, it still caused an enormous amount of human suffering. The disaster is an example of an error made by a man responsible for a machine. The same can happen anytime in the future. In fact, since machines are getting more complex and error prone the probability for accidents is likely to increase. Consequently, we argue that without proper actions our society is heading for disaster.”

Unfortunately, our disaster scenarios and speculations were not far from wrong: Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico April 29th View

Robots were used to block the oil spill. Maybe they were not intelligent enough. Who knows. All we know is that oil is still leaking into the Gulf of Mexico. Arguably some kind of action is needed in the near future.

Personal robotics is an area where we wait for breakthroughs in the near future. As Ryan Calo has pointed out in his blog post the South Korean parliament has went as far as setting the goal to have a robot in every home by 2015. I don’t know if the United States and Europe are lagging behind, but it is at least certain that an ever-aging population is a reality that the entire western society has to face. For example, personal-robots to aid the elderly and the disabled, is clearly an area with enormous opportunities but also social and legal controversies.

We have been working on a paper about legal liability of intelligent machines. In our working paper entitled “Liberating Intelligent Machines with Financial Instruments”, we propose a model for the development of intelligent systems in which the machine itself becomes a locus of accountability by means of machine insurance. The model is implemented by converging engineering design, business/market, as well as legal and financial practices. Finally, we show how to bring the ultimate machine to the market. Here is an excerpt from the working paper:

“We propose a new kind of legal approach, i.e. the ultimate insurance machine, to solve the related legal and economical difficulties in order to support the technological pursuits. In the insurance machine framework, a machine can become an ultimate machine by emancipating itself from its manufacturer/owner/operator and indeed even become a distinct legal or societal entity. This can be achieved by creating a legal framework around this ultimate machine that in itself has economical value. It can be argued that the ultimate insurance machine emancipates the machine. After all, machines, or at least the men behind the machines, are liberated. The requirement for liberation is, however, that machines have a mandatory insurance, and through that insurance, a tight link to the liability stock market.

If machines are considered legal persons, they can be considered items having rights and duties. Interestingly, this Insurance Machine Constellation does not make it necessary to decide, whether robots or software agents have to be treated as legal persons.”

And below you can find a link to the working paper:

Huttunen, Anniina, Kulovesi, Jakke, Brace, William, Lechner, Lorenz G, Silvennoinen, Kari and Kantola, Vesa, Liberating Intelligent Machines with Financial Instruments (July 1, 2010). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1633460

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