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  • By Jean Paul de Brito

Law and Robot Technology


What is believed to be the first robot ever, was built in 400 BC. It was a flying pigeon, that flew about 200 meters. Different scientists throughout history have taken part in developing robots. While at first these robots were separate entities, as developments took place and the technology improved, we are stepping into a new domain, where law still has to catch up. New technologies, such as robotic body parts, brain-computer interfaces and fully automatic wheel chairs, are giving rise to new questions in the legal world. This blog aims to show to the relevance of these questions by giving an overview of the scope of possible new questions, that need to be answered.

What are the new questions arising?

Technologies may, are and will be used to enhance the human body and to help people with disabilities. A few examples of such technologies are prosthetics, cochlear implants and wheel chairs. These technologies may change the definition of what it means to be disabled. What does it mean to be disabled?

Further questions, that are relevant for example for insurance companies are whether or not a helping technology, such as a wheelchair or prosthetic can be considered as part of the body. Regulations on, for example, passport pictures would have to be changed as well if that is the case. How does a society define a human body? How does the legal system define the human body? A very interesting question that arises from new technologies can be found in the case of people with lock-in syndrome, that are fully paralyzed, but may communicate using a brain-computer interface. What legal statutes does their communication carry? Are people in this situation still in the need of a guardian to make legal and medical decision?

The last question touched upon in this blog, is a highly philosophical one. Considering the power of technologies to enhance human capabilities, the question that arises is: What does it mean to be human?

Why is there a need to start the discussion on robotic human enhancements and legal regulations?

You might now wonder, why it is even important to think about these questions at all.

The answer lies in the power these technologies might have and the role of regulations to either enhance or limit these powers. Harsh regulations might hinder the emergence of new innovations, that can help the society at large. Simultaneously, a lack of legal frameworks and guidelines might leave doctors, patients, insurers and device-makers in the dark.

In conclusion new technologies are giving rise to new questions in the legal world and therefore it is of necessity to start a new discussion on robotic human enhancements and legal regulations. We need to know inter alia what it means to be disabled, how the society nowadays define a human body and what it means to be a human. You can also wonder why there is a need to start the discussion on robotic human enhancements and legal regulations, but the answer lies in the power these technologies might bring with them and the role of regulations toe either enhance or limit these powers. On one hand harsh regulations might hinder the emergence of innovations and on the other hand mild regulations leave professionals that use artificial intelligence in the dark. Hence it is absolutely needed to start the discussion on robotic human enhancements and legal regulations.

References

Bertolini, Andrea. "Robots as products: the case for a realistic analysis of robotic applications and liability rules." Law, Innovation and Technology 5.2 (2013): 214-247.

"You, Robot?" The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 01 Sept. 2012. Web. 05 Oct. 2016.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archytas

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