Law and Regulation of Artificial Intelligence and Robots - Conceptual Framework and Normative Implications

31 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2017

See all articles by Nicolas Petit

Nicolas Petit

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW)

Date Written: March 9, 2017


Law and regulation of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and robots is emerging, fuelled by the introduction of industrial and commercial applications in society. A common thread to many regulatory initiatives is to occur without a clear or explicit methodological framework. In light of the many challenges that affect attempts to devise law and regulation in a context of technological incipiency, this paper seeks to offer a methodology geared to the specific fields of AIs and robots. At bottom, the paper addresses the following normative question: should a social planer adopt specific rules and institutions for AIs and robots or should the resolution of issues be left to Hume’s three “fundamental laws of nature”, namely ordinary rules on property and liability, contract laws and the courts system? To explore that question, the analysis is conducted under a public interest framework.

Section 1 reviews the main regulatory approaches proposed in the existing AI and robotic literature, and stresses their advantages and disadvantages. Section 2 discusses identifiable regulatory trade-offs, that is the threats and opportunities created by the introduction of regulation in relation to AIs and robotic applications. Section 3 focuses on the specific area of liability as a case-study. Finally, Section 4 proposes a possible methodology for the law and regulation of AIs and robots. In conclusion, the paper proposes to index the regulatory response upon the nature of the externality – positive or negative – created by an AI application, and to distinguish between discrete, systemic and existential externalities.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, robots, robotics, law, regulation, liability, tort, contract, innovation, ethics

JEL Classification: O3, L86, K1, K2, L51

Suggested Citation

Petit, Nicolas, Law and Regulation of Artificial Intelligence and Robots - Conceptual Framework and Normative Implications (March 9, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Nicolas Petit (Contact Author)

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
50-139 Firenze

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