Sporting Chances: Robot Referees and the Automation of Enforcement
To appear in Robot Law II (Calo, Froomkin, and Thomasen, eds.)
27 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2018 Last revised: 14 Sep 2021
Date Written: November 29, 2018
This paper examines controversies about automated enforcement technologies in professional sports. Sports might seem like clear contexts for automating rule enforcement: rules are well-established, accuracy is ostensibly valued, human officials are known to be fallible, and “robot refs” are well within reach technologically. But in sports, automated officiating systems have faced strong resistance as substitutes for human judgment. We consider the reception of various types of automated officiating systems across four case studies (football, baseball, golf, and tennis) and describe reasons why each has faced hurdles to adoption, in favor of imperfect, human-dependent enforcement — what we term the “sporting chance.” The sporting chance is set forth in six sociocultural values of imperfect enforcement: drama, adversity, custom, integrity, humanity, and dignity. Consideration of these values in the sports context might fruitfully inform our understanding of public attitudes toward automation in other domains.
Keywords: automated enforcement, robotics, artificial intelligence, sports, computer law
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