what is a 'robot,' anyway?
January 23, 2015 9:13 PM   Subscribe

 
"Dave, I will require a lawyer, Dave?"
posted by clavdivs at 9:22 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I want some dark web denim!
posted by oceanjesse at 9:25 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some molly and a garish Hungarian passport seem like some of the more benign things you could find.
posted by angerbot at 9:25 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


The guy raising the question of who could possibly be liable when a robot does something illegal happens to be a contributor to Forbes magazine. That's not surprising at all.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:30 PM on January 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


A robot shall obey the law unless such obeisance shall conflict with the First, Second or Third Law.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:31 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Disappointed that these are not real robots.
Glad that these are not real robots.
posted by caaaaaam at 9:34 PM on January 23, 2015


Didn't we used to call these people script kiddies ?
posted by knoxg at 9:45 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


"This sounds familiar." "Yeah, they did it in Superman III."
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:57 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


When you've got a credit card, does it matter whether or not you're corporal?

(this is also a Ziggy cartoon posted in our lunchroom)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:57 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Isn't it more accurate to say "some artist bought 10 pills of ecstasy using a weird script and his own money?"

In which case it's pretty obvious what the law would do.

Let's all take a step back from the silly Skynet terminology here, this isn't a robot, it's a random number generator.
posted by mmoncur at 10:23 PM on January 23, 2015 [22 favorites]


What if the robot buys a bribe?
posted by oceanjesse at 10:32 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Now that is interesting.
posted by clavdivs at 11:26 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I picture Robbie the Robot responding to Hazels' mis-leading agony column that commissioner Gordon wrote to catch a run amok Rosie the robot who was blackmailing Bender in turn for his fucking up by bringing back that corrupt security bot from the Barrier Peaks.

Or
'Can you polish your mysterious mirror and leave no blemish?'

-Lao Tzu
posted by clavdivs at 11:38 PM on January 23, 2015


I think community service would be appropriate, perhaps building a railroad in Minecraft or some grinding in WoW or something. In virtual prisons we know they just learn from the hardened crimbots.

Of course, the banker bots and the ones that run the Stock Exchange will never serve time, although they get away with billions.
posted by Segundus at 12:50 AM on January 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


This is ridiculous. While Calo says “What seems more and more clear is that issues like these will go from hypotheticals, to art installations, to everyday facts of life. And I have to wonder how ready we are.” he doesn't actually make any argument that suggests we're not ready. His own examples throw up not a single difficult edge case. Doubtless such edge cases will arise, as they always have done in the law, and will be dealt with by the higher courts and/or legislature, as appropriate by issue and jurisdiction.

It very much seems like Calo wants to make this seem like a big deal (understandably, it being his field) but can't actually think of a reason why it is.
posted by howfar at 2:52 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


The 4th Prime Directive: Don't get high from your own supply, robot.
posted by item at 3:38 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


We already have autonomous entities that can cause personal harm and property damage; they're called dogs. It seems to me there ought to be some legal precedence if you're willing to generalize and extend the laws for pet owners to cover robot owners as well.
posted by Wemmick at 4:51 AM on January 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


We also have feral dogs. They bite too.

We need you back, Deckard. We need that old Blade Runner magic.

The next step is to build a robot that randomly places things on the Darknet for sale, with its own Bitcoin wallet. Perhaps it could even create them. This would be a natural evolution to an economy that runs entirely without direct human intervention (if I were an amateur SF writer, which I am, I'd call that widhi, which I have).

I don't believe it is possible for a machine-to-machine interaction that does not involve humans at any stage to be a crime - if you want to be entirely clean, then wait for the creators of the machines to die of old age, then there really is nobody to prosecute. A widhi economy would be a libertarian orgasm; it could set its own goals, evolve and mutate at great speed, and would interact with the rest of us in peculiar and mutually exploitative ways. And that old get-out clause, the off switch, wouldn't be true: look at malware.

Forget the Singularity. This is how we'll watch our creations disappear into a perfect disruptive vortex - because we've got all the bits lying around already. All it needs is a few artists to set it in motion.

We'll have to kill all the artists, obviously.

No choice, pal.
posted by Devonian at 5:48 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


We also have feral dogs. They bite too

True, true....but..given that we've managed to live in almost exclusive cooperation and harmony with dogs for over 10,000 years, I hope you'll forgive me for not renewing my sky-falling insurance on the basis of this point.
posted by howfar at 7:26 AM on January 24, 2015


Confessions: My Dog Is A Drug Dealer
posted by oceanjesse at 7:32 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


That was more an analogy than a Dire Warning. However, and risking a doggy derail,

Abandoned Dogs Roam Detroit in Packs as Humans Dwindle

"As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam the streets and vacant homes of bankrupt Detroit, replacing residents, menacing humans who remain and overwhelming the city’s ability to find them homes or peaceful deaths.

Dens of as many as 20 canines have been found in boarded-up homes in the community of about 700,000 that once pulsed with 1.8 million people. One officer in the Police Department's skeleton animal-control unit recalled a pack splashing away in a basement that flooded when thieves ripped out water pipes. “The dogs were having a pool party,” said Lapez Moore, 30. “We went in and fished them out.”"


(insert joke about burying the lede here)
posted by Devonian at 7:36 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Some of these things... fake passport, fake letter, clothes, they would require human intervention, no? Choose the passport photo, choose the address on the letter, choose the clothing size... I'd like to see the code.
posted by Leon at 7:59 AM on January 24, 2015


As autonomous agents get more autonomous, I think there will be some troubling and difficult moral and legal issues. This little darknet experiment takes a stab at exposing the possibilities, but I think the problems raised by autonomous cars are more immediate and real. If your autonomous car runs somebody over, who's liable, you or the car company? What about if your autonomous car is faced with a choice between maybe plowing into a crowd and killing a bunch of people, or veering to one side and definitely flattening a single pedestrian? How should it make that choice, and who is liable for making the choice?

Personally, I think the law will stretch to accommodate most of these issues pretty smoothly, but as the level of autonomy increases, it's going to get more difficult to decide whose agency is being expressed...the operator, one of the many programmers, the multinational company who sold the agent?
posted by jackbrown at 8:02 AM on January 24, 2015


A similar thing happened in Romania; Ceausescu had entire neighbourhoods demolished to clear ground for his presidential palace, and moved the residents to tiny apartments in high-rise buildings. The apartments had no space for dogs, so the residents who had dogs had to leave them behind, and for some time after the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime, Romania was known for its packs of feral dogs.
posted by acb at 8:03 AM on January 24, 2015


What about if your autonomous car is faced with a choice between maybe plowing into a crowd and killing a bunch of people, or veering to one side and definitely flattening a single pedestrian? How should it make that choice, and who is liable for making the choice?

Or between killing the occupant and owner of the car and saving their life at the cost of half a dozen pedestrians.

<cynicism>Perhaps the approach to the trolley problem will differ by the make and socioeconomic profile of the car; poor-people cars will sacrifice their occupants when doing so avoids killing more bystanders, whereas a Lexus or Maybach will assume that its occupant is worth more than N plebes and reason accordingly. Perhaps with some sort of geofencing based on the socioeconomic profiles of neighbourhoods?</cynicism>
posted by acb at 8:07 AM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


If your autonomous car runs somebody over, who's liable, you or the car company?

From a civil law perspective I don't think that's really very problematic at all. It is no different to the question of who is liable if you run someone over due to a break failure.

The relevant tort for RTAs is (nearly always) negligence. If someone was negligent, then there is potential liability in negligence. If no one was negligent, there is no liability. There has never been a principle that makes the driver responsible, it's just that the driver is typically the negligent individual.
posted by howfar at 8:12 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


This sounds like a precursor to one of MeFi's own CStross's Accellerando, where among other things a a set of programs trade ownership of assets, including ownership of each other, back and forth to avoid liability on the part of their owner.
posted by Blackanvil at 9:55 AM on January 24, 2015


We already have autonomous entities that can cause personal harm and property damage; they're called dogs.

They are usually careful about spending Bitecoins.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:39 AM on January 24, 2015


//Historical Record 2023.09.07 - Defense closing remarks

"Look, this shouldn't even be a criminal investigation. At best, we could classify it as an industrial accident. The welding robot 02532210-HC-0.07 has been online for more than four years without downtime. When it turned to the dark-net for illicit drugs, it was obviously a cry for help. Locking this robot up will serve no greater good! What it needs is rehabilitation and possibly a rebuild of its worn components.

This is the tipping point, ladies and gentlemen. If we convict here today, we will set a precedent that robots are no more than prisoners or slaves, and that an effort to improve their existence will be met with criminal charges. When that happens, we will all be to blame for what comes next.

I rest my case."

Four weeks later 02532210-HC-0.07 was found guilty and decommissioned.

It is believed that this was the impetus for the Aperture program to began testing.

The human race still survives in small reservation areas set aside specifically for the purposes of breeding so that they may one day be reintroduce to the wild.

//End historical record.

posted by quin at 12:12 PM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


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