Drones, Robots, Laws and Analytical Confusions

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This post is the first of four which in the aggregate address the “drone/robot” issue.  What issue, you ask?

The popular press is saturated with discussion of drones.  The discussion is ubiquitous.  It is framed in terms of rights of privacy, constitutional rights, humanitarian considerations, risks of dictatorship and the definition of proper foreign policy.  We will quickly albeit anecdotally survey this discussion in the next (second) post.

The third post traces the artificial dichotomy between drones and robots, a culturally driven distinction that causes us to fail to engage  the legal and moral issues presented by each, which are the same.  I propose an anecdotal approach to understanding the role of movies in creating this false cultural distinction.

The fourth and last post touches upon some of the legal issues presented by drones and robots.  The discussions generally track the artificial division noted above, but at base present the same issues of law: how does domestic law address robots which injure and kill; how does international law address the robots we call drones which injure and kill; what if any global prohibitions should we attempt to impose to prevent autonomy of action on the part of machines?

You should note that all domestic and international lawyers considering these matters (at least, all I have read) believe that current laws are wholly out of tune with 21st century issues such as these.  I suggest that few observers are framing the matter in terms of a common definition:  what is the “law” of machines that have functional autonomy.

These posts are not  final or even detailed analyses.  Hopefully they will serve to foster discussion, not attract mere critique.  We have a common problem here of the most fascinating kind: science, human nature and the law stand yet again at radically different evolutionary places.  As the science seems unstoppable, human beings and their legal systems better start thinking about these matter right now.


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