‘I Am the Master’: Some Popular Culture Images of AI in Humanity’s Courtroom
Savannah Law Review (2018)
36 Pages Posted: 14 May 2018
Date Written: May 7, 2018
Both serious literature and popular culture are flooding us with discussions of the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). As we note the rise of the subject of robot law and particularly the question of whether AI could possibly become sentient we begin to take seriously concerns about the regulation of the use of robots and the possibility that AI might pose a threat to the physical safety and privacy of human beings. In particular, we are beginning to wonder how we might control this new technology, which seems both more intelligent and more powerful than human beings. Suppose unethical or negligent programmers create situations in which AI escapes human controls and thus contravenes human norms or rules? Can we bring that AI to account? Ought we to do so, particularly if that AI is sentient or approaches sentience? At first, we might think that the answer should be “yes,” because after all we have created the AI and we should continue to control it.
But the question is, I would submit, more complicated. We have created computers and robots as useful tools, but we have continued to develop them as far more — as devices that far outstrip our own capacities to decipher the mysteries of the Universe. If we deliberately endow them with characteristics that mimic our own, if they develop those independently, or develop others by analogy allowing them to function in ways that mirror human activities, can we continue to insist that we should treat them as property and that they should do our bidding? If at some point, they make some demand for the right not to follow commands that we issue, for whatever reason, ought we to ignore that demand?
Novelists, filmmakers, and other artists who create popular culture have already considered this question for decades, if not centuries. In this Article, I discuss some of the ways in which some of them have thought about these issues and the insights they have had, which could guide us as we move through this important area.
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