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

Reviews

A ‘surprisingly lively examination of AI regulation.’ — New York Review of Books

‘Chesterman … brings a sober but readable approach to a subject otherwise much given to speculation and fearmongering. He enlivens his work with stories from the real world: accidents involving self-driving cars; stock market collapses caused by automated trading; biases in the opaque proprietary software used to assess the likelihood an individual will default on a loan or repeat a criminal offence.’ — South China Morning Post

‘One of the book’s many virtues is the clarity with which it frames the challenges in question. There is a tendency, as Chesterman notes, to anthropomorphise “intelligent” machines, attributing to them a degree of agency or even sentience that is not (yet) warranted. … [T]he book does a superb job of mapping and organising key issues in the regulation of AI. But it is more than a synthesising exercise. What Chesterman propounds is a typology of automated decisions, with different ethical and legal requirements applying to each category in the typology.’ — Australian Review of Books

‘[A] comprehensive and engaging read for anyone interested in better understanding AI, its impact on our legal landscape, and some of the thorniest new issues confronting regulators today.’ — The Interpreter

‘Chesterman judiciously sifts through various types of concerns through these lenses, which distinguishes this book from its peers as unproven weariness that artificial intelligence may cause harm with impunity runs deep in the psyche of those who advocate and overstate the need for new laws. This scholarly analysis makes a welcome contribution to the better understanding of the law’s potential and limit as a regulatory tool to manage human interaction with technological challenges.’ — Asian Journal of International Law

‘As Chesterman mentions in the introduction to the book, “the field of AI and law is fertile,” and there are already books, dedicated journals and thousands of articles that discuss recent developments in AI, its actual or potential impact on the legal profession, and normative questions raised by AI. The majority of them concentrate on the activities of legal practitioners, their potential clients, or the machines themselves. This book, by contrast, Chesterman explains, focuses on those who seek to regulate the activities of AI, and the difficulties that AI systems pose for government and governance.’ — The IPKat

‘I highly recommend the book to anyone with an interest in the future role and function of A.I. that can be shaped and developed by law and policy makers as well as in law and policy making. It is thought provoking while elucidating on the latest ideas in the study of A.I.’ — Singapore Law Gazette

‘I would recommend this book without hesitation to policymakers dealing with AI. The book is wonderfully rich in content. The author has been able to weave together issues of law, ethical principles, philosophy, and pieces of history, to present a coherent and intriguing point of view. What I liked in addition was that the book included in its discussion, China’s approach to AI regulation.’ — Society for Computers and Law

‘Chesterman is able to formulate a remarkably accessible legal argument—one that can be read and understood by both experts and non-experts—without sacrificing the necessary attention to detail or investigative rigor. This not only speaks to the author’s skill as a writer, but it derives from his understanding that deciding these important legal questions is not something that can or should be outsourced to a small number of experts. We all have a stake in how these matters are resolved, and we all need to be able to access and make sense of the opportunities and the challenges that now confront us and our communities.’ — The New Rambler

‘[T]his is a most interesting, concise and precise work, worth reading by anyone interested in the regulation of AI and the limitations of the law in achieving that end. The book makes a very valuable contribution to scholarship in an area of increasing importance for legal regulation domestically and internationally.’ — Law in Context

 

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Book Depository

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United Kingdom: Blackwell’s | Foyles | Waterstones | WH Smith

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

Media

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:

Or see the interview I did with Maiko Meguro for the Asian Society of International Law here:

You can also watch a debate I moderated on the question of whether industry or government should take the lead in regulation, 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.

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