This Article sets out a possible trajectory for the coevolution of legal responsibility and autonomous machines. Commentators have responded to the problem of legal responsibility for harms caused by such machines with alreadyexisting legal doctrines related to defective products, agency law, and international humanitarian law, among others. There is a debate about the extent to which those doctrines in their current forms can address adequately the situations that will arise when autonomous machines become more prevalent. To the extent they do not, it is because of the law's general discomfort with associative responsibility, a discomfort shared and informed by most of the literature on ethics. The ethical literature most relevant to the problems of associative responsibility provides some guidance on the issue but no completely satisfactory answers. In turn, the concern that there will be gaps in responsibility for harms caused by machines leads to two interweaving lines of development. The first is to refine the concept of responsibility as a way to lessen that gap. The second is to reduce harm by designing autonomous machines with prosocial behaviors. If that second effort is successful, that very success, together with calls to grant legal personhood to machines for legal and pragmatic reasons and the human tendency to anthropomorphize, will strengthen what are now nascent calls to treat such machines as moral agents. This trajectory, however, must be placed in the context of society's current attitudes about how far responsibility in general should extend.
Mark A. Chinen,
The Co-Evolution of Autonomous Machines and Legal Responsibility, 20 Va. J.L. & Tech. 338