Research & Studies

New Laws of Robotics – Book Recommendation by Ivana Stepanovic

How We Can Alter the Future of AI: New Laws of Robotics by Frank Pasquale

In April 2021, the EU has presented the first-ever proposal for AI legislation, but is it good enough, and are we already late? Do we even know how we want to limit AI? In his book ‘New Laws of Robotics’, Frank Pasquale proposes four key rules that could defend human expertise in the age of AI.

Frank Pasquale’s book ‘New Laws of Robotics: Defending Human Expertise in the Age of AI’ is more than another item on a reading list. It is a homework challenge for professionals in all fields of science who feel the need to rethink our technology goals, decide how we want it to evolve and how we should set limitations to protect ourselves as species. The time between the present and the future is rapidly shrinking as technological advancements are spiraling out of control and taking us into the age of ‘post-human in which machines are becoming something we can no longer understand.


Brave New World

We are already feeling the impact of AI on our daily lives with ‘algorithmic friendships’ on social media, ‘filter bubbles’ of personalized searches all over the internet and the cold response of automated customer service operators in banks, mobile network providers, tourist agencies and other businesses. Algorithms are increasingly replacing the human workforce threatening to make all of our individual skills, talents and knowledge obsolete unless we somehow upgrade ourselves to be able to compete with AI. And if we already can’t distinguish real people from ‘social bots’, what will happen when we stop perceiving the difference between machines and human bodies? The key question Frank Pasquale asks in his book is how far AI should go in shaping the life of humans?


Frank Pasquale’s Four New Laws of Robotics

How can we possibly regulate something as complex as artificial intelligence? Perhaps if we start from some basic rules such as Pasquale’s four new laws of robotics. Inspired by Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics outlined in his science fiction short story ‘Runaround’ published in 1942, Pasquale has set out the four basic rules that might protect humans against AI:

  1. Robotic systems and AI should complement professionals, not replace them.
  2. Robotic systems and AI should not counterfeit humanity.
  3. Robotic systems and AI should not intensify zero-sum arms races.
  4. Robotic systems and AI must always indicate the identity of their creator(s), controller(s), and the owner(s).

Algorithmic accountability emerges as the most important issue as AI can potentially discriminate, violate human rights and blur the borderline between human and non-human. Pasquale, therefore, proposes limits to technology applications that are outlined in the four principal laws of robotics and that could be imposed by introducing bans, licenses and moratoria.


The Homework

Frank Pasquale has set out the guidelines for AI legislation which seems to be shaping up due to the efforts of policy-makers around the world. It has left us with challenging homework that is not just the fine-tuning of legislation but also thinking about positioning the limits of AI and technology in general. We need to decide what is ethical, what is practical and what is unacceptable. Should there be a rule that there should be at least one human in an otherwise automated hotel? Should there be a list of jobs only humans should be doing? And what kind of ethical basis is used to create and safeguard these boundaries?

You can Find Frank Pasquale’s book here.