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Punishing Artificial Intelligence: Legal Fiction or Science Fiction

Abbott, Ryan and Sarch, Alex F. (2019) Punishing Artificial Intelligence: Legal Fiction or Science Fiction SSRN Electronic Journal.

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Whether causing flash crashes in financial markets, purchasing illegal drugs, or running over pedestrians, AI is increasingly engaging in activity that would be criminal for a natural person, or even an artificial person like a corporation. We argue that criminal law falls short in cases where an AI functionally commits a crime and there are no practically or legally identifiable upstream criminal actors. This Article explores potential solutions to this problem, focusing on holding AI directly criminally liable where it is acting autonomously and irreducibly. Conventional wisdom holds that punishing AI is incongruous with basic criminal law principles such as the capacity for culpability and the requirement for a guilty mind. Drawing on analogies to corporate and strict criminal liability, as well as familiar imputation principles, we show AI punishment cannot be categorically ruled out with quick theoretical arguments. AI punishment could result in general deterrence and expressive benefits, and it need not run afoul of negative limitations such as punishing in excess of culpability. Ultimately, however, punishing AI is not justified, because it might entail significant costs and it would certainly require radical legal changes. Modest changes to existing criminal laws that target persons, together with potentially expanded civil liability, are a better solution to AI crime.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Law
Authors :
Sarch, Alex
Date : 25 October 2019
DOI : 10.2139/ssrn.3327485
Copyright Disclaimer : Copyright 2019 The Authors
Uncontrolled Keywords : Artificial intelligence; Law and technology; Criminal culpability; Legal fiction; Mens rea; Legal personality
Related URLs :
Additional Information : Abbott, Ryan Benjamin and Sarch, Alex F., Punishing Artificial Intelligence: Legal Fiction or Science Fiction (February 1, 2019). UC Davis Law Review, Forthcoming. or
Depositing User : Diane Maxfield
Date Deposited : 02 May 2019 09:55
Last Modified : 03 May 2019 09:43

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