Understanding legal aspects of modern autonomous systems requires a philosophical and practical discourse. On the one hand, we need to understand what legal responsbility means in the context of autonomous systems. We need to understand who is responsible for the actions of the system, what the actions are and whether the system actually reacted as designed vs. whether new behaviour occurred.
On the other hand, we also need to understand that the introduction of the autonomous systems changes the legal systems. Autonomous systems do not require operators and therefore they are capable of interacting with each other. The notion of conflicts, damage and collateral damage get completely new dimensions.
I’ve picked up this book because I’ve had the possibility to work with one of the authors and met one more at a dinner a while back. They got me interested in the legal aspects of autonomous systems. In their book, the authors discuss various aspects of such systems. They start from the foundation of the legality of conflicts and then they move over to modern warfare. They provide historical examples of how the legal systems were (and are) shaped by the so-called LAWS (Lethal Autonomous Warfare Systems).
I particularly like the aspects related to the design of the systems and the fact that in chapter 4, the authors discuss the process of learning from the machine, or the algorithm. They call it the process of debugging, which is a new way of looking at the concept of understanding algorithms.
What I miss in the book, however, is the discussion on the quality of the AI systems. Although it is not explicit, it seems to me that the authors assume that an AI system is perfect, makes no mistakes dues to design defects (bugs). If this assumption is true, then it the discussion about the responsibility is a bit simpler, because we do not recognize the problems where an individual (a programmer) gives his/her best, but the testers or others in his team make mistakes. So, the responsibility is not on an individual (programmer, tester, architect), but on the entire company.
Either way, I’m happy that I had the possibility to listen to some of the authors and to work with them.