Reasonable Robots

International and Comparative Law Quarterly (Forthcoming)

6 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2021

See all articles by Simon Chesterman

Simon Chesterman

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 2, 2021


It is a curious feature of the history of artificial intelligence (AI) that its successes have often been measured in games. Early programs were taught bounded problems like tic-tac-toe and draughts. These were novelties, but the defeat of chess world champion Gary Kasparov by IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997 was presented as a threat to the intellectual dominance of humanity — comparable, perhaps, to the Cold War rivalry that had played out in the match pitting Bobby Fischer of the United States against the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky quarter of a century earlier. Another twenty-five years on, and the machines have beaten us in even more complex games, such as Go, as well as idiosyncratic ones, such as Jeopardy!

Ludology offers a relatable measure of machine achievement. Yet it is curious because such games are, by definition, meant to be fun. Deep Blue, AlphaGo, and other AI systems have many qualities, but the ability to have fun is not among them. Another explanation might be that we focus on trivial measures because it makes the advances of our metal and silicon creations seem less threatening.

As Ryan Abbott’s "The Reasonable Robot" makes clear, those advances will affect every aspect of human society and economy. That much we have heard before, from the World Economic Forum’s breathless talk of a Fourth Industrial Revolution to prophetic warnings of the coming singularity. Abbott’s contribution is to try to offer clarity in how law should respond.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, machine learning, robots, regulation, legal personality, intellectual property, patent law

JEL Classification: K23, O32, O34, O38

Suggested Citation

Chesterman, Simon, Reasonable Robots (December 2, 2021). International and Comparative Law Quarterly (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN:

Simon Chesterman (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

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