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Law Must Catch Up with Rise of Robotics

While many advanced robots work at a distance, far off in space, increasingly, robotics and artificial intelligence are impacting our daily lives. One legal scholar believes its time for the law to consider the implications. (Photo credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center.)
While many advanced robots work at a distance, far off in space, increasingly, robotics and artificial intelligence are impacting our daily lives. One legal scholar believes its time for the law to consider the implications. (Photo credit: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center.)

A new article calls for the law to catch up with robotic technology. Ryan Calo, assistant professor in the University of Washington School of Law, says it’s time laws reflect the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence.

“Technology has not stood still. The same private institutions that developed the Internet, from the armed forces to search engines, have initiated a significant shift toward robotics and artificial intelligence,” writes Calo in “Robotics and the Lessons of Cyberlaw.” Published in the June edition of the California Law Review, the article is one of the first to discuss the relationship between law, robotics and AI. It builds on his 2014 call for the creation of a federal robotics commission.

“Courts that struggled for the proper metaphor to apply to the Internet will struggle anew with robotics,” Calo adds. He believes that as the artificial intelligence and robotics become widespread in use, it will create legal tensions that will be different from those created by the Internet and create a whole new set of problems.

“Robotics combines, for the first time, the promiscuity of data with the capacity to do physical harm,” he writes. “Robotic systems accomplish tasks in ways that cannot be anticipated in advance, and robots increasingly blur the line between person and instrument.”

 

Fellow legal scholar Jack. M. Balkin of Yale hopes Calo’s article will spur wider debate on the intersection of robotics and the law. “Calo’s account of the problems that robotics present for law is just terrific, and I believe it is destined to be the starting point for much future research in the area,” Balkin says.

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