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LTAAA Symposium: Legal Personhood for Artificial Agents

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3 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    You mention the law’s expressive impact in the context of affecting the philosophical debate about a fuller personhood for artificial agents, once legal personhood is accepted. Yet at the same time, you sound pretty open to the possibility of automated judging. If I’ve understood you correctly, then I suggest your apolitical reification of “the law” is leading you astray.

    You speak of “the law” as if it’s some kind of intellectual, economistic construct imposing order on society, and changing with a teleology of improved efficiency. Pragmatism, including considerations of “technical capacities and functionalities,” drives the changes first, and the expressive stuff will kick in afterwards. Maybe autonomous agents would see it that way, too. But if they take on the role of judges, how can you be so sanguine that their deliberations “will be driven by our felt needs and desired ends”?

    There are two ways that “the law” remains the law. One is by sufferance of those subject to it. And one of the things that encourages people to accept a legal regime is a feeling of justice — part of law’s expressive side. Will citizens subject to “the law” continue to accept it when, say, judges are automata? Or might they just get angry enough to throw out that legal regime, even by revolution? In which case “the law” won’t be the law anymore.

    The other way “the law” remains the law is when it’s imposed on its subjects by force. Just as most citizens don’t necessarily stand to benefit from the legal personhood of AAAs, and just as “pragmatism” too often benefits a powerful minority at the expense of everyone else, the excessive abstraction in your analysis could lead you to the side of the few who are pointing their weapons at the many. (I’m speaking of humans in both categories, by the way.) Are you OK with standing there?

  2. Samir Chopra says:

    Andrew,
    I said ” I think automated judging is more than just a gleam in the eye of those folks that attend ICAIL conferences”. Did you read into this some expression of support? Since I didn’t express any such support, I’m not going to defend myself against the charge of technocratic blindness to human needs.

    But let me say this now, as this accusation seems to recur time and again in your responses to my work, and as you seem determined to impose this particular vision upon my far more qualified statements: How can you be so sanguine that the deliberations of human beings we have currently placed–or rather, who have placed themselves–in charge–often without our consent–of the law and of the world’s political, economic and moral affairs, are so driven by “our felt needs and desired ends”?

    Really, when you wish to paint me as an imposer of technocratic discipline on a benign human world that is taking such good care of its citizens, all the while informed by relationships of mutual respect and regard, you might wish to consider what it is you are defending.

    You ask whether citizens will continue to accept the law when “judges are automata”? Who knows? Perhaps some citizens, like our African-American ones will prefer judges that consistently and coherently apply the law, as opposed to being driven by racial prejudice. Chew on that, if you will. Certainly many oppressed minorities, the supposed beneficiaries of your humanistic vision, might wish for more dispassionate, rule-driven applications of the law, than the current almost-ludicrously inconsistent and favoring-the-powerful model.

    I suggest the “excessive abstraction” in my analysis might actually work to the benefit of those, who currently, when exposed to the magnificent humanistic vision that you think currently pervades our social orderings, find to their disappointment instead, that the placing of humans at the top of the heap is also to place all their unexamined prejudices and chauvinism there.

  3. A.J. Sutter says:

    Samir, thanks for your reply. I did qualify my comments with the clause “If I’ve understood you correctly,” though your reply hasn’t yet resolved this question for me in the negative. Obviously your dichotomy between robot judges, on the one hand, and human judges driven by racial prejudice, on the other, excludes a lot in the middle.

    As for my personal views, I don’t at all believe that the humans currently in charge are doing such a great job. That, along with my despair at the prospects for constructive political change in the US within my lifetime, contributed to my decision a couple of years ago to move away. Not that they’re doing such a great job in Japan currently either; but I feel that political change here is more humanly possible, in every sense of that word. (Though whether that can be accomplished within the current constitutional framework is a separate question.)

    Since you mention in another post that you’ll respond more fully to the respect for humanity issue separately, I’ll hold some other comments on your #2 above until I’ve read that response.