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Center for Internet and Society - Robotics





 



Robotics experts tell Congress the U.S. is in danger of losing the international robot race

Wed, 09 Nov 2016 08:00:00 +0000

"Ryan Calo, a technology law professor at the University of Washington who edited the new Roadmap for Robotics report, argues that the government should even consider creating a Federal Robotics Commission that could help inform policy with deep technical expertise and review computational systems to make sure they’re working within the bounds of the law.

“I’m pretty convinced that it’s premature to write rules for artificial intelligence and for robotics,” said Calo. “But I do think it’s going to be increasingly important for the federal government to have dedicated expertise that can ask the right questions when asked to sign off on new technologies.”"

Date published: 
November 9, 2016
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Artificial Intelligence: Law and Policy

Tue, 24 May 2016 07:00:00 +0000

Full video available on YouTube.

The University of Washington School of Law is delighted to announce a public workshop on the law and policy of artificial intelligence, co-hosted by the White House and UW’s Tech Policy Lab. The event places leading artificial intelligence experts from academia and industry in conversation with government officials interested in developing a wise and effective policy framework for this increasingly important technology. 

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What the Past of Robotics Law Says About Its Future

Wed, 02 Mar 2016 08:00:00 +0000

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 lawthan 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. So I’m in agreement with the many scholars, journalists, and others that see interesting times ahead for robotics law and policy. It turns out, however, that there are just as interesting times behind. Robots have been in American society for half a century. And, like most technologies, they have occasioned legal disputes. A small team of research assistants and I went back and looked at hundreds of cases involving robots in some way or another over the past six years. The cases span a wide variety of legal contexts, including criminal, maritime, tort, immigration, import, tax, and other law. Together they tell a fascinating story about the way courts think about an increasingly important technology. (You can read the full paper, “Robots in American Law,” here.) In many of the cases I came across, the role of the robot was incidental: The case would likely have come out just the same way were it not a robot at issue. Some of these incidental cases were fascinating. Nannuzzi v. King et al. (1987) involved an injury on a movie set where a robotic lawnmower malfunctioned and injured a cameraman. The film, written and directed by Stephen King, was Maximum Overdrive—a film about machines coming alive and attacking people. Nevertheless, the legal issue presented by a falling stage light would have been basically the same. In other cases, however, it really seemed to matter that a robot was at issue. In White v. Samsung (1993), for example, a federal appellate court had to decide whether a robot version of Vanna White in a Samsung print ad “represented” the game show hostess for purposes of the right to publicity. The majority thought it did. The dissent was adamant it did not. “One is Vanna White,” said the dissent, “The other is a robot. No one could reasonably confuse the two.” Just a few years later the same court encountered a second case of robots emulating people—in this instance, Cliff and Norm from the television shows Cheers. Judge Alex Kozinski’s eventual dissent from a decision not to rehear the case began with the words, “Robots again.” In Comptroller of the Treasury v. Family Entertainment Centers (1987), a Maryland court had to decide whether life-size, animatronic puppets that dance and sing at Chuck E. Cheese restaurants trigger a state tax on food “where there is furnished a performance.” The court went on at length about the nature of the term performanceand why a robot could not display the requisite spontaneity. Whereas in Louis Marx & Co. and Gehrig Hoban & Co., Inc. v. United States (1958), a customs court had to decide whether a “mechanical walking robot” being imported represented an animate object (and therefore a doll), which is taxed at a lower rate. The court went on to draw a distinction between a robot—which represents a human—and the toy in question—which only represents a robot. Read the full piece at Slate.  Focus Area: RoboticsRelated Topics: RoboticsAuthor(s): Ryan CaloPublication Type: Other WritingPublication Date: March 2, 2016[...]



Robots in American Law

Wed, 24 Feb 2016 08:00:00 +0000

Abstract:      

This article closely examines a half century of case law involving robots—just in time for the technology itself to enter the mainstream. Most of the cases involving robots have never found their way into legal scholarship. And yet, taken collectively, these cases reveal much about the assumptions and limitations of our legal system. Robots blur the line between people and instrument, for instance, and faulty notions about robots lead jurists to questionable or contradictory results. 

The article generates in all nine case studies. The first set highlights the role of robots as the objects of American law. Among other issues, courts have had to decide whether robots represent something “animate” for purposes of import tariffs, whether robots can “perform” as that term is understood in the context of a state tax on performance halls, and whether a salvage team “possesses” a shipwreck it visits with an unmanned submarine.

The second set of case studies focuses on robots as the subjects of judicial imagination. These examples explore the versatile, often pejorative role robots play in judicial reasoning itself. Judges need not be robots in court, for instance, or apply the law robotically. The robotic witness is not to be trusted. And people who commit crimes under the robotic control of another might avoid sanction. 

Together these case studies paint a nuanced picture of the way courts think about an increasingly important technology. Themes and questions emerge that illuminate the path of robotics law and test its central claims to date. The article concludes that jurists on the whole possess poor, increasingly outdated views about robots and hence will not be well positioned to address the novel challenges they continue to pose.

 
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Publication Date: 
February 24, 2016



The billion-dollar robot question — how can we make sure they’re safe?

Fri, 18 Dec 2015 08:00:00 +0000

"“The government itself is not acting as a repository of expertise here,” said Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington and expert on technology policy. “I worry quite a bit that government will over-rely on experts from industry because they don’t have their own internal knowledge.”"

Date published: 
December 18, 2015
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A drunk man's assault on a robot raises unusual legal issues

Tue, 06 Oct 2015 07:00:00 +0000

"This is in line with the thinking of Ryan Calo, a robo-ethicist and professor of law at the University of Washington who argues extensively that robotic technology will bring about drastic updates to the law as it proliferates. “Any time you’re proposing legal protections for humanoid robots,” he explained by phone, “it’s important to remember that it’s not because of anything the robot is doing, but rather it’s because of how human beings project life onto these things.”

Calo tends to agree that a person attacking a humanoid robot is worthy of special legal concern; they might deserve a penalty more severe than someone vandalizing something non-anthropomorphic. “The same kind of person who kicks a dog might also abuse other people,” he reasoned.
 
“If psychologists are struggling with categorizing humanoid robots, then it shouldn’t surprise us that the law might as well,” Calo said."
Date published: 
October 6, 2015
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How Do You Make Laws For Killer Robots?

Thu, 09 Apr 2015 07:00:00 +0000

"The conference was organized by UW professor Ryan Calo. He said there’s a role for regulation of robot use in politics to influence elections or deceptive robots used for defrauding people.

“Imagine an artificial intelligent girlfriend that was really just everything you ever wanted and knew everything you thought you wanted, but one of the things it helps you to do is purchase only from the clients of the company that made it,” Calo said.

The conference will also consider international treaties to outlaw robots that make  kill decisions on their own.  

“And the key phrase is that humans always need to maintain meaningful control,” Calo said. “But there's a lot of definitional problems.”"

Date published: 
April 9, 2015
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The Path of Robotics Law

Sun, 29 Mar 2015 07:00:00 +0000

I have posted a draft of my latest essay, The Path of Robotics Law, on SSRN. Here is the abstract:   This essay, written as a response to Ryan Calo's valuable discussion in "Robotics and the Lessons of Cyberlaw," describes key problems that robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) agents present for law.   The first problem is how to distribute rights and responsibilities among human beings when non-human agents create benefits like artistic works or cause harms like physical injuries. The difficulty is caused by the fact that the behavior of robotic and AI systems is "emergent;" their actions may not be predictable in advance or constrained by human expectations about proper behavior. Moreover,the programming and algorithms used by robots and AI entities may be the work of many hands, and may employ generative technologies that allow innovation at multiple layers. These features of robotics and AI enhance unpredictability and diffusion of causal responsibility for what robots and AI agents do.    Lawrence Lessig’s famous dictum that “Code is Law” argued that combinations of computer hardware and software, like other modalities of regulation, could constrain and direct human behavior. Robotics and AI present the converse problem. Instead of code as a law that regulates humans, robotics and AI feature emergent behavior that escapes human planning and expectations. Code is lawless.   The second problem raised by robotics and AI is the "substitution effect." People will substitute robots and AI agents for living things—and especially for humans. But they will do so only in certain ways and only for certain purposes. In other words, people tend to treat robots and AI agents as special-purpose animals or special-purpose human beings. This substitution is likely to be incomplete, contextual, unstable, and often opportunistic. People may treat the robot as a person (or animal) for some purposes and as an object for others. The problem of substitution touches many different areas of law, and it promises to confound us for a very long time.   Finally, the essay responds to Calo's argument about the lessons of cyberlaw for robotics. Calo argues that lawyers should identify the “essential characteristics” of robotics and then ask how the law should respond to the problems posed by those essential characteristics. I see the lessons of cyberlaw quite differently. We should not think of essential characteristics of technology independent of how people use technology in their lives and in their social relations with others. Because the use of technology in social life evolves, and because people continually find new ways to employ technology for good or for ill, it may be unhelpful to freeze certain features of use at a particular moment and label them “essential characteristics.” Innovation in technology is not just innovation of tools and techniques; it may also involve innovation of economic, social and legal relations. As we innovate socially and economically, what appears most salient and important about our technologies may also change. Original Publication: BalkinizationDate published: March 29, 2015Focus Area: RoboticsPeople: Ryan CaloRelated Topics: Robotics[...]



How computers will think

Tue, 03 Feb 2015 08:00:00 +0000

"“How do you handle liability? Who do we hold responsible?” asks University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo, who specializes in cyber law and robotics. “We need to use the law to create the proper incentives.”"

Date published: 
February 3, 2015
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US Needs a New Robotics Agency or the Machine Overlords Will Win … Or Something

Mon, 06 Oct 2014 07:00:00 +0000

"Ryan Calo, an assistant law professor at the University of Washington, conceded a "Federal Robotics Commission" would be small by agency standards.

“Ideally, it would be staffed by robotics experts,” he told Nextgov Monday. “That would be folks who are expert in software, in hardware, in human-robot interaction.”"

Date published: 
October 7, 2014
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