New Laws of Robotics: Defending Human Expertise in the Age of AI

Artificial Intelligence and Innovation and Economic Growth

Article Snapshot


Frank Pasquale


Belknap Press (an Imprint of Harvard University Press), 2020


Artificial intelligence-based systems (AI) and robots often complement human judgment and labor, rather than replacing it. Policymakers and engineers should ensure that this continues.

Policy Relevance

Policymakers should ensure that AI reflects democratic values.

Main Points

  • Our ability to capitalize on AI without incurring the worst of its potential costs depends on three factors:
    • Currently, AI and robots mostly complement human labor, rather than substituting for it.
    • Policymakers should sustain this status quo.
    • Institutions of governance are capable of successfully adhering to this policy.
  • Technologists should recognize four new laws of robotics:
    • Robots and AI should complement human professionals, not replace them.
    • Robots and AI should not be given humanoid bodies.
    • Robots and AI should not be used to impose rigid systems of social control.
    • Robots and AI should always identify their owners.
  • Robots should function as adjuncts to health workers, not as replacements; AI’s greatest effect on healthcare will be to inform studies on the role of nutrition, sleep, stress, and income in health.
  • Commercial pressure might lead to premature adoption of ineffective methods of online education.
    • Regulators should ensure that students understand the technologies they are using.
    • Unions should ensure that teachers help decide how AI and robotics are used in classrooms.
  • Online media giants like Google and Facebook should bear responsibility for online content; uploads and sharing could be slowed to make decisions about the quality or usefulness of content.
  • AI systems are increasingly used to rate or rank human beings for financial creditworthiness or (in China) to award “social credit;” older concepts of fairness and justice can better explain how firms and governments should act and make decisions.
  • A universal basic income for all individuals, regardless of whether they work, could be funded by taxing the wealthy.
  • Utopian technologists portray unions and regulators as obstacles on a technological road to riches, but these institutions can democratize a future now dominated by technology and finance firms.

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