Artificial Intelligence, the law and the future

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Artificial Intelligence, the law and the future

AI-driven tech will become counterproductive if a legal framework is not devised to regulate it


Why in news?

  • A rethink of public policy is absolutely essential if non-desirable impacts of artificial intelligence on human race are to be arrested.


  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a global technological wave and there’s no disputing the fact that it has entered the Indian market.
    • India has not advanced as far as giving citizenship rights to a robot (case in point –Sophia from Saudi Arabia), but personalised chatbots have flooded the market, AI has forayed into the medical stream and it is also being used to protect the cyberspace.
  • Following examples symbolise the arrival of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our everyday lives.
    • In February, the Kerala police inducted a robot for police work.
    • The same month, Chennai got its second robot-themed restaurant, where robots not only serve as waiters but also interact with customers in English and Tamil.
    • In Ahmedabad, in December 2018, a cardiologist performed the world’s first in-human telerobotic coronary intervention on a patient nearly 32 km away.

Need to regulate AI

  • With greater explorations into the space of AI, the world is moving towards a goal of near-complete automation of services.
    • The element of end-to-end ‘human involvement’ has been insisted upon by most AI advanced countries such as Canada, in order to ensure accountability and security of AI systems.
    • AI is wholly based on data generated and gathered from various sources.
    • Hence, a biased data set could evidently lead to a biased decision by the system or an incorrect response by a chatbot.
  • AI has several positive applications, as seen in these examples.
    • But the capability of AI systems to learn from experience and to perform autonomously for humans makes AI the most disruptive and self-transformative technology of the 21st century.
  • If AI is not regulated properly, it is bound to have unmanageable implications.
    • Imagine, for instance, that electricity supply suddenly stops while a robot is performing a surgery, and access to a doctor is lost?
    • And what if a drone hits a human being?
    • These questions have already confronted courts in the U.S. and Germany. All countries, including India, need to be legally prepared to face such kind of disruptive technology.

Challenges of AI

  • Predicting and analysing legal issues and their solutions, however, is not that simple. For instance, criminal law is going to face drastic challenges.
  • What if an AI-based driverless car gets into an accident that causes harm to humans or damages property? Who should the courts hold liable for the same? Can AI be thought to have knowingly or carelessly caused bodily injury to another? Can robots act as a witness or as a tool for committing various crimes?
  • Except for Isaac Asimov’s ‘three laws of robotics’ discussed in his short story, ‘Runaround’, published in 1942, only recently has there been interest across the world to develop a law on smart technologies.
    • In the U.S., there is a lot of discussion about regulation of AI.
    • Germany has come up with ethical rules for autonomous vehicles stipulating that human life should always have priority over property or animal life.
    • China, Japan and Korea are following Germany in developing a law on self-driven cars.
  • In India, NITI Aayog released a policy paper, ‘National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’, in June 2018, which considered the importance of AI in different sectors.
    • The Budget 2019 also proposed to launch a national programme on AI. While all these developments are taking place on the technological front, no comprehensive legislation to regulate this growing industry has been formulated in the country till date.

Legal personality of AI

  • Overall our laws will eventually need to be amended or new laws for AI technologies and processes will need to be adopted to fill up existing lacunae in the growing AI space.
  • However, before taking up this arduous task, it would be simpler to form the basic guidelines which should be met on a national level for any AI activity – indigenous, foreign or even modifications to an open source AI.
  • The guidelines would serve as the foundation for any amendments in the laws or brand new AI laws.
    • First we need a legal definition of AI.
    • Also, given the importance of intention in India’s criminal law jurisprudence, it is essential to establish the legal personality of AI (which means AI will have a bundle of rights and obligations), and whether any sort of intention can be attributed to it.
    • To answer the question on liability, since AI is considered to be inanimate, a strict liability scheme that holds the producer or manufacturer of the product liable for harm, regardless of the fault, might be an approach to consider.
    • Since privacy is a fundamental right, certain rules to regulate the usage of data possessed by an AI entity should be framed as part of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018.

Way forward

  • The present debate about AI is between human redundancy and evolution of technology.
    • Traffic accidents lead to about 400 deaths a day in India, 90% of which are caused by preventable human errors.
      • Autonomous vehicles that rely on AI can reduce this significantly, through smart warnings and preventive and defensive techniques.
    • Patients sometimes die due to non-availability of specialised doctors.
      • AI can reduce the distance between patients and doctors.
    • Either way, the reality is that AI has entered the market and, pros and cons aside, the need of the hour is to estimate the problems and have solutions to deal with them in advance.

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