Artificial Intelligence and Agents

NUS Law Working Paper No. 2021/019

NUS Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & the Law Working Paper 21/02

23 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2021 Last revised: 26 Oct 2021

See all articles by Daniel Kiat Boon Seng

Daniel Kiat Boon Seng

Director, Centre for Technology, Robotics, AI and the Law, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore

Cheng Han Tan

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) – School of Law; Centre for Public Affairs and Law; Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law

Date Written: October 1, 2021

Abstract

With the increasing sophistication of AI and machine learning as implemented in electronic agents, arguments have been made to ascribe to such agents personality rights so that they may be treated as agents in the law. The recent decision by the Australian Federal Court in Thaler to characterize the artificial neural network system DABUS as an inventor represents a possible shift in judicial thinking that electronic agents are not just automatic but also autonomous. In addition, this legal recognition has been urged on the grounds that it is only by constituting the electronic agents as legal agents that their human principals may be bound by the agent’s actions and activities, and that a proper foundation of legal liability may be mounted against the human principal for the agent’s misfeasance. This paper argues otherwise. It contends that no matter how sophisticated current electronic agents may be, they are still examples of Weak AI, exhibit no true autonomy, and cannot be constituted as legal personalities. In addition, their characterization as legal agents is unnecessary because their actions (and misapplications) can be legally addressed by the under-appreciated instrumentality principle. By treating the electronic agents as instruments or extensions of the acts of the human principal, issues in contract and tort law can be readily resolved. This essay concludes that until a Strong AI application can be demonstrated, the issue of legal agency of electronic agents ought not to detain the development of technology and of the law in this space.

Keywords: AI, machine learning, electronic agents, Thaler, DABUS, personality, contract, tort

Suggested Citation

Seng, Daniel Kiat Boon and Tan, Cheng Han, Artificial Intelligence and Agents (October 1, 2021). NUS Law Working Paper No. 2021/019, NUS Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & the Law Working Paper 21/02, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3935446 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3935446

Daniel Kiat Boon Seng (Contact Author)

Director, Centre for Technology, Robotics, AI and the Law, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Eu Tong Sen Building
Singapore, 259776
Singapore

HOME PAGE: http://https://law.nus.edu.sg/trail/

Cheng Han Tan

City University of Hong Kong (CityU) – School of Law; Centre for Public Affairs and Law; Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law ( email )

Room 6101,Li Dak Sum Yip Yio Chin Academic Build
83 Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon Tong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
86
Abstract Views
396
PlumX Metrics