We, the Robots? Regulating Artificial Intelligence and the Limits of the Law

Should we regulate artificial intelligence? Can we?

From self-driving cars and high-speed trading to algorithmic decision-making, the way we live, work, and play is increasingly dependent on AI systems that operate with diminishing human intervention. These fast, autonomous, and opaque machines offer great benefits — and pose significant risks.

This book examines how our laws are dealing with AI, as well as what additional rules and institutions are needed — including the role that AI might play in regulating itself.

Drawing on diverse technologies and examples from around the world, the book offers lessons on how to manage risk, draw red lines, and preserve the legitimacy of public authority. Though the prospect of AI pushing beyond the limits of the law may seem remote, these measures are useful now — and will be essential if it ever does.

(If you’ve heard enough and just want the book, the cheapest way is through Book Depository here, at £25/$35 with free delivery worldwide. Other options below, including a 20% discount code for CUP where it costs £29/$39.)

Advance Praise

‘Professor Chesterman’s We, the Robots? is a hugely important addition to the growing body of literature on the regulation of AI. Drawing on the author’s rich knowledge of international institutions, the book offers many novel observations on the challenges of AI and how they can be addressed. The chapter on Regulation by AI is particularly impressive in its combination of ground-breaking legal theory and technical insight. The writing throughout is erudite, clear, and methodical. This is a book which deserves to be widely read.’ — Jacob Turner, author of Robot Rules: Regulating Artificial Intelligence

‘An accessible introduction to some of the most important legal questions raised by artificial intelligence, and solutions implemented or explored across a broad range of jurisdictions. The book explains how the speed, autonomy, and opacity of artificial intelligence systems combine to raise questions around responsibility, personality, and transparency, analysing proposals from technology-specific regulation to a new international agency, with a brief introduction to the (potential) role of such systems in legal interpretation, prediction, and decision-making.’ — Lyria Bennett Moses, author of Artificial Intelligence, Robots and the
Law and Professor of Law, UNSW Sydney

‘Chesterman’s We, the Robots? is a nuanced and thoughtful perspective on several important themes in the regulation of artificial intelligence. Chesterman compellingly synthesizes a wide range of global perspectives here, including proposals to shape AI via law, and the difficulties of replacing law itself with automated systems. Dialectically comparing the strengths of law and AI as systems of social coordination and control, We, the Robots? offers wise counsel to lawyers and policymakers on the regulation of algorithmic decision-making systems.’ — Frank Pasquale, author of New Laws of Robotics and Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School

‘Current debates and institutional initiatives on how the law should govern technological innovation, such as AI and robotics, should not overlook limits and constraints of such regulatory legal efforts. We, the Robots? provides an insightful analysis both ways — a reference book in the field of the law and AI.’ — Ugo Pagallo, author of The Law of Robots and Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Turin


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Cambridge University Press (use discount code “ROBOTS21” for 20% off!)

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Or I suppose you could always walk into a bookshop and buy it in person.


For a taste of some of the arguments in the book, my 2021 ICLQ Annual Lecture on the question of legal personality for AI is available here:

An excerpt from the introduction to the book is available on the CUP website here. You can also read articles that road tested ideas developed more fully in the book, including this piece on legal personality in the International and Comparative Law Quarterly or this one on opacity in the American Journal of Comparative Law. For a longer list of past work in the area, click here.