Rethinking the Fourth Amendment in the Age of Supercomputers, Artificial Intelligence, and Robots

27 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2017

See all articles by Melanie Reid

Melanie Reid

Lincoln Memorial University - Duncan School of Law

Date Written: March 16, 2017


Law enforcement currently uses cognitive computers to conduct predictive and content analytics and manage information contained in large police data files. These big data analytics and insight capabilities are more effective than using traditional investigative tools and save law enforcement time and a significant amount of financial and personnel resources. It is not farfetched to think law enforcement’s use of cognitive computing will extend to using thinking, real-time robots in the field in the not-so-distant future. IBM’s Watson currently uses its artificial intelligence to suggest medical diagnoses and treatment in the healthcare industry and assists the finance industry in improving investment decisions. IBM and similar companies already offer predictive analytics and cognitive computing programs to law enforcement for real-time intelligence and investigative purposes. This article will explore the consequences of predictive and content analytics and the future of cognitive computing, such as utilizing “robots” such as an imaginary “Officer Joe Roboto” in the law enforcement context. Would our interactions with Officer Joe Roboto trigger the same Fourth Amendment concerns and protections as those when dealing with a flesh-and-blood police officer? Are we more afraid of a “robotic” Watson, its capabilities, and lack of feeling and biases, compared to a human law enforcement officer? Assuming someday in the future we might be able to solve the physical limitations of a robot, would a “robotic” officer be preferable to a human one? What sort of limitations would we place on such technology? This article attempts to explore the ramifications of using such computers/robots in the future. Autonomous robots with artificial intelligence and the widespread use of predictive analytics are the future tools of law enforcement in a digital age, and we must come up with solutions as to how to handle the appropriate use of these tools.

Keywords: robots, Fourth Amendment

Suggested Citation

Reid, Melanie, Rethinking the Fourth Amendment in the Age of Supercomputers, Artificial Intelligence, and Robots (March 16, 2017). West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 119, No. 101, 2017. Available at SSRN:

Melanie Reid (Contact Author)

Lincoln Memorial University - Duncan School of Law ( email )

601 West Summit Hill Drive
Knoxville, TN 37902
United States

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