Who will the courts blame when the first driverless car kills someone? That's "when", not "if", as deaths from driverless cars are a near certainty, and the logic behind who the car decides to kill is a good introduction to the fascinating and terrifying world of our coming robot future.
Fortunately, we need not go blindly into this future. Robot Law is volume of research on robotics law and policy edited by Ryan Calo, A. Michael Froomkin, and Ian Kerr. Calo is a professor at the University of Washington School of Law, who frequently writes about where the laws of man and the laws of robotics intersect. So what better way to illustrate the book's cover than a cartoonish, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robot game turned into full bar-side brawl? Thanks to art by Eric Joyner, we get this delightful spectacle of mechanical mayhem.
This volume collects the efforts of a diverse group of scholars who each, in their own way, has worked to overcome barriers in order to facilitate necessary and timely discussions of a technology in its infancy. Identifying controversial legal, ethical, and philosophical problems, the authors reveal how issues surrounding robotics and regulation are more complicated than engineers could have anticipated, and just how much definitional and applied work remains to be done.
Topics range through five sections, starting generally with "How should the law think about robots?", moving on to robot responsibilities and more, before ending on Law Enforcement and War, the topics most likely to inspire panic and Terminator references.
We spoke briefly with Calo about the book and how much we have to worry about Law and Roborder.
Popular Science: What was the weirdest part of the book?
Ryan Calo: Maybe the weirdest topic is sex robots. But Sinzi handles the subject with rigor and tact.
What's the biggest consequence for the future of getting robot law wrong?
The biggest consequence of getting robotics law and policy wrong is that the U.S. won't keep up. It'll be the first transformative technology since steam where America wasn't a key leader.
Robot Law will be available in the United States in March.