Frank Pasquale Shares Four Rules That Should Be Applied to Robots and AI

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on May 24, 2019


The ever-expanding role of robots in our lives requires a radical new set of rules, according to Frank Pasquale, an expert on the law of artificial intelligence, algorithms, and machine learning.


Frank Pasquale, University of Maryland law professor and artificial intelligence (AI) expert, outlines four new legally inspired rules that he believes should be applied to robots and AI in our daily lives.


While participating in a robotics conference at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Professor Pasquale was interviewed by AFP (Agence France-Presse). Below are excerpts from the resulting article, “New Laws of Robotics Needed to Tackle AI: Expert.”


The First Rule: Robots Should Complement Rather than Substitute for Professionals


The first is that robots should complement rather than substitute for professionals. … Rather than having a robot doctor, you should hope that you have a doctor who really understands how AI works and gets really good advice from AI, but ultimately it's a doctor’s decision to decide what to do and what not to do.


The Second Rule: Stop the Robotic Arms Races


The second is that we need to stop robotic arms races. There’s a lot of people right now who are investing in war robots, military robots, policing robots. … It's important that any investment in military robotics or AI should provide some advantage that's not going to be just immediately cancelled out by your enemies.


It’s just depressing, it’s money down a hole. You build a robot that can tell if my robot can tell if your robot can tell if my robot is about to attack. It just never ends.


The Third Rule: No Humanoids


The third, and most controversial, rule is not to make humanoid robots or AI.


Professor Pasquale cited the example of a Google assistant called Duplex that would call people to confirm hotel reservations without telling them they were talking to a computer.


There was an immediate backlash to that because people thought that it was Google trying to pass its machines off as a human. I think that counterfeiting principle is the most important one, that we should not counterfeit humanity.


Robots can look humanoid only if it’s totally necessary to the task.


The Fourth Rule: AI Should Be Attributable to a Person


The fourth and final law is that any robot or AI should be attributable to or owned by a person or a corporation made of persons because… we know how to punish people but we don’t know how to punish machines.


If we have drones flying about the place that are autonomous, cars that are autonomous, bots online that are speaking on Twitter or in finance trading stocks, all of those have to be attributed to a person.


There are companies like Facebook where they just fine the company but they never force any person to give up money or be incarcerated for doing something wrong. And that’s a problem.


Read the full article: “New Laws of Robotics Needed to Tackle AI: Expert.”



Frank Pasquale is Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. He is an expert on the law of artificial intelligence, algorithms, and machine learning; and he has been recognized as one of the ten most cited scholars in health law in the United States.


Professor Pasquale frequently presents on the ethical, legal, and social implications of information technology for attorneys, physicians, and government officials. His book, The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms that Control Money and Information (Harvard University Press, 2015), develops a social theory of reputation, search, and finance, and offers pragmatic reforms to improve the information economy. The Black Box Society has been reviewed in Science and Nature, and published in Chinese, French, Korean, and Serbian translations.