Servers and Waiters: What Matters in the Law of A.I.

31 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2018 Last revised: 17 Oct 2018

See all articles by Ignacio Cofone

Ignacio Cofone

McGill University Faculty of Law

Date Written: September 23, 2018


The European Parliament’s recent declaration that robots are “electronic persons” illustrates the widespread uncertainty about how to regulate robots and artificial intelligence (A.I.) agents. This article aims to confront that uncertainty. To date, most regulations have treated robots and A.I. agents either as tools or people, making questionable assignments of rights and responsibilities. Instead, regulations should reckon that robots and A.I. agents escape this dichotomy. The law must assign rights and responsibilities to entities with characteristics that exist on a continuum between tools and people. This article describes this continuum through three characteristics that help us consistently place robots and A.I. agents along it: emergence, embodiment, and social valence. It proposes a framework for analogizing A.I. entities to existing entities that the law already understands, thereby creating a baseline for assigning rights and responsibilities for their actions.

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence Law, Law of Robotics, Algorithmic decision-making, Algorithms, Tort Law, Legal Analogies

Suggested Citation

Cofone, Ignacio, Servers and Waiters: What Matters in the Law of A.I. (September 23, 2018). Stanford Technology Law Review, Vol. 21, 2018, Available at SSRN:

Ignacio Cofone (Contact Author)

McGill University Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec


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