Our Bots, Ourselves

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2 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    Thanks for such a cogent post. I’m reading the book’s early chapters now, and had many of the same reactions, albeit nowhere nearly so articulately or authoritatively formed. I especially agree about the prominence (and dubious wisdom) of the idea that bots are separate from their creators, and hope to comment on that in more depth later.

  2. Lurker says:

    I think that in the consideration of the legal personality of contract-making bots it would be beneficial to use the rules of the Roman law concerning the legal capacity of slaves.

    In the Roman law, the master could give a slave (or an adult child) a pecunium, a portion of movable property that was slave’s to administer. The slave could make contracts on that property, including debts. Of course, the master could remove the pecunium at will, but no one else could. Yet, all suits concerning the pecunium were raised by or against the master. If the slave (or child) had caused a damage or made a debt that the pecunium did not cover, the master had two chances: either give up the slave or carry the obligation himself.

    Now, an automated bot is administering a pecunium. A good way to equitably limit the actual person’s liability would be to give two chances, if the obligation is larger that the bot’s pecunium: either give up the bot or carry the obligation.

    This approach would be rather equitable. Giving up an expensive bot (destroying all software and documentation after handing over copies to the aggrieved party) is expensive, so this would create a sufficient penalty to the corporate bot-operator. Yet, for a consumer being banned from using an automated feature of E-bay would be a bearable result. And of course, if you can’t control your bot, you should not be operating it.