A Simpler World? On Pruning Risks and Harvesting Fruits in an Orchard of Whispering Algorithms

17 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2017

See all articles by Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Stanford Law School

Date Written: September 28, 2017


This article explores some of the law-related challenges and trade-offs associated with the accelerating importance of “artificial intelligence” for organizations and the public. I consider the relevance of emergent phenomena that may arise from the interaction of humans and artificially intelligent systems even when no one intended or expected such phenomena to arise, new problems in deliberation, and organizational choices with legal consequences that may be triggered by developments in artificial intelligence, and will in turn shape how such technology develops.

Although many of these developments may deliver distinctive benefits and in some cases have little if any precedent, in some respects they also evoke some of the experiences that societies confronted in the related realms of food, agriculture, and public health. In those contexts, advancing technology and scientific knowledge reduced the price of feeding ever-larger populations and contributed to substantial improvements in human health. But certain changes, such as large-scale industrialization of the alimentary sector and the rise of motorized transportation available on a massive scale, brought their own societal challenges and second-order regulatory problems that may illuminate trade-offs associated with artificial intelligence.

Ultimately, society’s understanding of the emerging role of artificial intelligence and its associated legal dilemmas is best served –– as has been true in the food and public health contexts –– by questioning reassuring assumptions about the self-correcting, social welfare-advancing nature of conventional markets or public deliberation. Societies will instead tend to make more sensible legal choices governing artificial intelligence by taking seriously the changing nature of human goals and values, the reality of time-inconsistent preferences, and subtle and potentially unintended organizational consequences of technologies that are reshaping our relationship to information, institutions, and each other.

Keywords: Law and Artificial Intelligence, Institutions, Organizations, Deliberation, Agency Problems, Public Law, Private Law, Emergence

Suggested Citation

Cuéllar, Mariano-Florentino, A Simpler World? On Pruning Risks and Harvesting Fruits in an Orchard of Whispering Algorithms (September 28, 2017). Stanford Public Law Working Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3044720 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3044720

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar (Contact Author)

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace ( email )

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Stanford Law School ( email )

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