Anarcho-Robots Care Not For Your Laws

I was out late helping plan a local CryptoParty so this will be all the content you will get today. But I’m giving you some gold. Science fiction often explores the ideas of artificial entities breaking laws. Usually these entities take the form of artificial intelligences that are capable of thinking and acting on their own. Under such circumstances it’s easy to see how human law can be applied to artificial intelligences. But what happens when the artificial law breaker isn’t intelligent? That’s exactly what this story is making use address:

The Random Darknet Shopper, an automated online shopping bot with a budget of $100 a week in Bitcoin, is programmed to do a very specific task: go to one particular marketplace on the Deep Web and make one random purchase a week with the provided allowance. The purchases have all been compiled for an art show in Zurich, Switzerland titled The Darknet: From Memes to Onionland, which runs through January 11.

The concept would be all gravy if not for one thing: the programmers came home one day to find a shipment of 10 ecstasy pills, followed by an apparently very legit falsified Hungarian passport– developments which have left some observers of the bot’s blog a little uneasy.

If this bot was shipping to the U.S., asks Forbes contributor and University of Washington law professor contributor Ryan Calo, who would be legally responsible for purchasing the goodies? The coders? Or the bot itself?

This case is another example of the legal system being unable to keep up with the advancement of technology. The article goes on to explain that the laws apply to people knowingly purchasing illicit merchandise. Because of the bot’s random nature the author could not know that they would receive illegal merchandise. But the bot also didn’t know what it was doing since its actions were random and it is incapable of thinking (as far as we know, those AIs can be pretty sly).

In all probability politicians will scramble to debate this issue, write a law, and pass it. By the time they’re done the next technological advancement will be created that acts outside of the boundaries imagined by the politicians who passed the law that was supposed to deal with the last situation. Eventually we will have to address more severe crimes such as assault or murder. At some point when machines are intelligent enough to create new machines we’ll have to deal with the idea of whether or not an artificial author is responsible for the actions of its creation’s crime. Property crimes will also be interesting once the offenses are committed by machines instead of humans.

The legal system is incredibly slow moving while technological advancements happen at a rapid pace. There will likely come a day when intelligent machines become responsible for most technological advancements. What will happen then? Will we have to put the legal system into the hands of machines as well? Will people accept that? It’s an interesting thought exercise.