Revenge Against Robots

17 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2017 Last revised: 12 Nov 2018

Date Written: August 9, 2017


When a robot hurts a human, how should the legal system respond? Our first instinct might be to ask who should pay for the harm caused, perhaps deciding to rest legal liability with the robot’s hardware manufacturer or its programmers. But besides considering tort or criminal actions against corporate and human persons, legal actors might also target the most immediate source of the harm — the robot itself.

By considering the role of revenge and psychological satisfaction in human disputes, this essay explores the benefits to human persons that could accrue through the corporeal punishment of robots. Along the way, the paper discusses dueling, deodands, free will, rogue gardeners, shooting down drones, and destroying printers with baseball bats.

Keywords: robots, revenge, deodands, torts

Suggested Citation

Mulligan, Christina, Revenge Against Robots (August 9, 2017). 69 South Carolina Law Review 579 (2018)., Available at SSRN: or

Christina Mulligan (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

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