Contract law, legal theory, Regulating AI

I, Robot (sometimes)

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Here’s a light read from India that blows right by the lack of a legal defintion of AI (It’s nice when you’re right), and asks the question can a robot be a legal person? And then worries that this will open up a Pandora’s Box of legal issues within the country.

Let’s assume that a state somewhere passes legislation that makes some form of artificial intelligence a legal person. Consider that corporations are given legal personality; on that basis the scenario is surprisingly not that far fetched. What does that mean if other states have not? Effectively you’d have an international Pandora’s Box with an AI entity being recognized as a person in one state but not in another. I can’t think of a particularly great legal analogy to this problem. The closest I could come up with was an issue in Canada six years ago where, roughly speaking, same sex marriages were not recognized in other jurisidictions which made obtaining a divorce somewhat difficult.

Remembering that there are a few components to creating a contract, perhaps the most obvious, but least referenced because it is obvious, is that there has to be more than one party to form a contract. So imagine that India decides to grant AI, however it is legally defined, as having legal personality. And that AI enters into a contract. But then someone seeks to enforce that contact in Oceania. Let us assume that Oceania does not recognize the AI as a legal personality. Would a court in Oceania consider the contract valid? Contracts usually have a governing law clause that provide that the contract is governed by the laws of a particular jurisdiction. Assuming the contract is stated to be governed by Indian law (which we have assumed recognizes AI as a legal person) would a court in Oceania accept that or refuse the contract as a matter of public policy? Even if it did, wouldn’t that effectively mean that a court in Oceania was giving  the AI legal standing in Oceania as if it was a legal person even though the laws of Oceania do not allow for that? What if the contract was not governed by Indian law but a different third party state?

Ah well, we have always been at war with Eastasia.

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