Who is to Blame When Robots Kill?

Is the [Evolution] of robots moving too quickly? An insider’s opinion exposed.

In 1981, a 37-year-old factory worker in Japan was killed by a robot that suddenly powered on, pinning him against another machine. Investigators state the deceased stepped across a safety barrier; triggering the bot to power on and stab him in the back.

In 2009, an employee of a meat supplying company in California was having a regular work day. Her job is to oversee a palletizer robot, which is a large machine that stacks boxes. When a box became stuck, she entered its cage to pull the box out, and it mistook her for one of the stacking boxes which subsequently crushed her torso and killed her. The bot was supposed to be equipped with sensors to differentiate humans from boxes, but in this case, it failed.

In 2015, a 57-year-old woman was fixing a piece of machinery at a Michigan auto assembly factory when a robot in the factory seemed to have gone ‘rogue’. According to the lawsuit, the robot took her by surprise, entered her workstation against programming commands and crushed her head between a hitch assembly, killing her. You get the gist.

NOW, who is to blame when bots kill?

Typically, the blame falls upon the robot’s manufacturer. However, there is a lasting debate over whether robots could [hypothetically] be charged with murder. Sounds crazy right? There have even been propositions in changing criminal law to hold these ‘non-human entities’ liable for the crimes committed. The problem associated with this debate is regarding the two elements of criminal liability that need to be satisfied:

1) an action or the crime committed; and

2) mental intent or awareness of the crime committed.

This brings me to my next question; do robots have the mental capacity and intelligence to be aware that they are committing a crime or unethical act?

The year is 2018 and let’s face it, technology is evolving. Do you remember watching the show The Jetsons or as more recent times see it, Hollywood movies Her, The 5th Element or i-robot? We are not far off from what these fictional movies expose. What these flicks have in common is the evolution of technology, intelligence, and expansion of common trends we see in today’s society. Machines and robots have the ability to react and follow commands just as you would teach your dog to roll-over or walk a visually impaired person across the street. A dog or cat, who’s been trained to a certain level of intelligence can still turn on their owners or others at any time. Robots do not seem much different now do they? Today, young children are given more powerful computers then NASA had for decades. Toddlers become obsessed with ipads and smartphones and learn the ins and outs of technology at a much faster speed than adults.

Having said that, it may very well be that the rapidly growing intelligence in bots does, in fact, create mental capacity and intelligence; therefore, creating a question of liability when faced with a personal injury lawsuit.

We laugh when questioning the intent of robot attacks, especially if viewed maliciously. However, lawsuits may become more complicated as to whom the fault lies.

So, what do you think? Do robots have the mental capacity to make decisions of their own and are aware of the activities they participate or should liability rest solely on manufacturers?

Contact us today: (519) 657-1LAW or Info@ml-dev.thirdeyeinsights.ca

By Michael Johnson


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