The Rise of Robots and the Law of Humans


Abstract: In this article, I attempt to answer fundamental questions raised by the rise of robots and the emergence of ‘robot law’. The main theses developed in this article are the following: (i) robot regulation must be robot- and context-specific. This requires a profound understanding of the micro- and macro-effects of ‘robot behaviour’ in specific areas. (ii) (Refined) existing legal categories are capable of being sensibly applied to and regulating robots. (iii) Robot law is shaped by the ‘deep normative structure’ of a society. (iv) If that structure is utilitarian, smart robots should, in the not too distant future, be treated like humans. That means that they should be accorded legal personality, have the power to acquire and hold property and to conclude contracts. (v) The case against treating robots like humans rests on epistemological and ontological arguments. These relate to whether machines can think (they cannot) and what it means to be human. I develop these theses primarily in the context of self-driving cars – robots on the road with a huge potential to revolutionize our daily lives and commerce.

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