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When Good Robots Do Bad Things

On August 6, 2010, Ryan Calo, Dan Siciliano, Ian Kerr, and I presented a program entitled “When Good Robots Do Bad Things:  Responsibility and Liability in an Era of Personal and Service Robotics” at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco.  The American Bar Association Section of Science & Technology Law sponsored the program.

The program covered a series of topics beginning with white paper I wrote, which I will later share here, discussing reported cases concerning products liability cases involving robots.  I described some of the rather ordinary cases that involve claims arising from the use of robots.  Over time, we will see more and varied kinds of robotics cases.  Ryan Calo then discussed some of his thoughts about immunity for the robotics industry discussed on another post on this blog.  Dan Siciliano talked about some of the issues arising from reliance on robot expertise and behavior.  For instance, the duty to exercise reasonable care may involve an average competent driver choosing to obtain robot assistance for some driving actions, while not others.  Ian Kerr talked about electronic agency and attributing conduct of a robot to a human.

Following these initial discussions, the panelists talked about more specific legal issues.  Ryan Calo discussed how robots may create risks to our privacy through their surveillance capabilities.  Dan Siciliano talked about damages arising from the loss of training or acquired skills when a trained robot is damaged.  Can a party recover more than just the replacement cost of the robot?  If so, how much more?  Ian Kerr then discussed designing robots with legal and moral concepts for the purpose of constraining their conduct.  Asimov’s Three (or more accurately, four) Laws of Robotics are an example of a robot design philosophy.  Professor Kerr seeks to make us consider how we can implement a system of “robo-ethics.”  Finally, I discussed some of the legal issues arising from strong artificial intelligence and dramatic advances in robotics, if these advances occur along the lines of the predictions of some.

If you are interested in exploring these issues in more detail or more generally legal issues of artificial intelligence and robotics, I encourage you to join the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Committee of the ABA Section of Science & Technology Law.  Ryan Calo is one of the co-chairs of this committee.  The committee looks at these issues and more generally all aspects of law and devices that replicate or appear to replicate human mental or physical activity – learning, reasoning, communicating, manipulating objects, and so on.

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