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A Legal Theory for Autonomous Artificial Agents

Samir Chopra and Laurence F. White

Publication Year: 2011

“An extraordinarily good synthesis from an amazing range of philosophical, legal, and technological sources . . . the book will appeal to legal academics and students, lawyers involved in e-commerce and cyberspace legal issues, technologists, moral philosophers, and intelligent lay readers interested in high tech issues, privacy, [and] robotics.” —Kevin Ashley, University of Pittsburgh School of Law As corporations and government agencies replace human employees with online customer service and automated phone systems, we become accustomed to doing business with nonhuman agents. If artificial intelligence (AI) technology advances as today’s leading researchers predict, these agents may soon function with such limited human input that they appear to act independently. When they achieve that level of autonomy, what legal status should they have? Samir Chopra and Laurence F. White present a carefully reasoned discussion of how existing philosophy and legal theory can accommodate increasingly sophisticated AI technology. Arguing for the legal personhood of an artificial agent, the authors discuss what it means to say it has “knowledge” and the ability to make a decision. They consider key questions such as who must take responsibility for an agent’s actions, whom the agent serves, and whether it could face a conflict of interest.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. ix-x

We thank our editor, Melody Herr, for her interest in this project and her unwavering support throughout; her enthusiasm has been infectious and has sustained our endeavors. Noor Alam, David Coady, Scott Dexter, James Grimmelmann, Rohit Parikh, Jari R

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pp. 1-4

Social and economic interactions today increasingly feature a new category of being: the artificial agent. It buys and sells goods; determines eligibility for legal entitlements like health care benefits; processes applications for visas and credit cards; collects, acquires, and processes financial information; trades on stock markets; and so on. We use language ...

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Chapter 1: Artificial Agents and Agency

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pp. 5-28

In developing a legal theory appropriate for artificial agents, the first tasks are to identify, and then clarify the nature of, the subject of our theorizing. There are two views of the goals of artificial intelligence. From an engineering perspective, as Marvin Minsky noted, it is the “science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by men” ...

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Chapter 2: Artificial Agents and Contracts

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pp. 29-70

Artificial agents, and the contracts they make, are ubiquitous, for in the electronic networked marketplace, agents are both common and busy. Rarely is a contract concluded on the Internet without the deployment of an electronic intermediary. Every time we interact with a shopping website, we interact with a more or less autonomous artificial agent that ...

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Chapter 3: Attribution of Knowledge to Artificial Agents and Their Principals

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pp. 71-118

The modern corporation’s ever-growing presence on the Internet and its dependence on sophisticated information technology means artificial agents are increasingly engaged in tasks that make them the acquirers, processors, and transmitters of information relevant to their principals’ business activities. The legal status of this information—in particular, ...

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Chapter 4: Tort Liability for Artificial Agents

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pp. 119-152

Tort liability, which includes a multiplicity of liability schemes and recovery theories such as negligence, product liability, malpractice liability, liability in trespass, and liability for negligent misstatement, arises from the harm caused by a person’s breach of a duty to avoid harm to others, and seeks to put the person harmed in the position he would have been ...

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Chapter 5: Personhood for Artificial Agents

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pp. 153-192

The logical culmination of our inquiries is the question of whether artificial agents could be accorded legal personhood;1 they would then enter law’s ontology, to take their place alongside humans and corporations as subjects of legal rights and obligations. This standard understanding of legal persons is derived from John Chipman Gray’s classic ...


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pp. 193-220


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pp. 221-242


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pp. 243-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780472026760
E-ISBN-10: 0472026763
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472051458
Print-ISBN-10: 0472051458

Illustrations: 1 Table, 2 Figures
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 792929052
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Legal Theory for Autonomous Artificial Agents

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Subject Headings

  • Agency (Law).
  • Intelligent agents (Computer software) -- Law and legislation.
  • Juristic persons.
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