Speech in, Speech Out
Ronald K.L. Collins & David M. Skover, Robotica: Speech Rights and Artificial Intelligence (Cambridge University Press 2018)
16 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 31, 2018
This invited short response was published as part of Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover's book Robotica: Speech Rights and Artificial Intelligence (Cambridge University Press 2018). Collins and Skover make a two-step argument about "whether and why First Amendment coverage given to traditional forms of speech should be extended to the data processed and transmitted by robots." First, they assert (based on reader-response literary criticism) that free speech theory can be "intentionless": what matters is a listener's experience of meaning rather than a speaker's intentions. Second, they conclude that therefore utility will become the new First Amendment norm.
The premise is right, but the conclusion does not follow. Sometimes robotic transmissions are speech and sometimes they aren't, so the proper question is not "whether and why?" but "when?" Collins and Skover are right that listeners' experiences can substitute for speakers' intentions, and in a technological age this will often be a more principled basis for grounding speech claims. But robotic "speech" can be useful for reasons that are not closely linked to listeners' experiences, and in these cases their proposed "norm of utility" is not really a free speech norm.
Keywords: speech, First Amendment, robots, artificial intelligence
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation