What happens when the robots get it wrong?

What happens when the robots get it wrong?

As new technologies and automation start playing an ever more important role in the legal world, what are the risks in relation to negligence? As new technologies and automation start playing an ever more important role in the legal world, what are the risks in relation to negligence? This article forms part of our special report into the future of law. Open the report here.

Technological progress always has about it a sense that change is happening at an unprecedented rate. In the case of automation, that notion seems to have about it an unusual sense of accuracy. As robots and algorithms take over responsibility for more and more daily tasks our lawyers, policymakers and software engineers are having to give increasing attention to the implications of these developments.

A significant reason for the scrutiny, and ever a key question in law, is what happens when things go wrong? Automation and technology brings with it unchartered understandings of human agency, and with these new understandings of agency we are beginning to see the potential for new kinds of negligence.

This article forms part of our special report into the future of law. Open the report here.

Unlimited liability

A central concern in understanding negligence is where ultimate fault might be said to reside. Much thought is already being given to the idea that the buck could stop with the developer of the programme. While it might seem abstract to consider that a programmer could be held liable for unintended consequences within aline of code, the thinking perhaps rests only on the intangible nature of code and software. We readily expect tangible goods and systems, such as cars or electronics, to be serviced and in full working order, without our understanding the intricacies of the software personally. So could developers be held responsible for damage suffered by a law firm using their technology?

Karen

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