Servers and Waiters: What Matters in the Law of A.I.


The European Parliament’s recent declaration that robots are “electronic persons” illustrates the widespread uncertainty about how to regulate robots and artificial intelligence (A.I.) agents. This article aims to confront that uncertainty. To date, most regulations have treated robots and A.I. agents either as tools or people, making questionable assignments of rights and responsibilities. Instead, regulations should reckon that robots and A.I. agents escape this dichotomy. The law must assign rights and responsibilities for entities with characteristics that exist on a continuum between tools and people. This article describes this continuum through three characteristics that help us consistently place robots and A.I. agents along it: emergence, embodiment, and social valence. It proposes a framework for analogizing A.I. entities to existing entities that the law already understands, thereby creating a baseline for assigning rights and responsibilities for their actions.


Stanford University Stanford, California
  • 21 Stan. Tech. L. Rev. 167 (2018)
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