Can we build AI that doesn’t turn on us? Is it already too late?

A report from the UK House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence has made a number of recommendations for the UK’s approach to the rise of algorithms. The report ‘AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?’ suggests the creation of a cross-sector AI Code to help mitigate the risks of AI outstripping human intelligence.

The main recommendation in the report is that  autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings should never be vested in artificial intelligence. The committee calls for the Law Commission to clarify existing liability law and considers whether it will be sufficient when AI systems malfunction or cause harm to users. The authors predict a situation where it is possible to foresee a scenario where AI systems may

malfunction, underperform or otherwise make erroneous decisions which cause harm. In particular, this might happen when an algorithm learns and evolves of its own accord.

The authors of the report confess that it was “not clear” to them or their witnesses whether “new mechanisms for legal liability and redress in such situations are required, or whether existing mechanisms are sufficient”.  Their proposals, for securing some sort of prospective safety, echo Isaac Asimov’s three laws for robotics.

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

But these elaborations of principle may turn out to be merely semantic.  The safety regime is not just a question of a few governments  and tech companies agreeing on various principles. This is a global problem – and indeed even if Google were to get together with all the other giants in this field, Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Tencent, it may not be able to anticipate the consequences of building machines that can self-improve.  Continue reading

Violist wins against Royal Opera House for hearing loss

Goldscheider v The Royal Opera House [2018] EWHC 687 (QB) – read judgment

The ROH has been found liable for failing to protect the hearing of its musicians and for causing acoustic shock to former viola player Chris Goldscheider. This is the first time a musical institution has been found responsible for damage to the hearing of musicians, and the first time that acoustic shock as been recognised as an injury sounding in damages. As the Media release on the judgement observed,

The decision leaves insurers for the ROH responsible for a £750,000 compensation claim, and legal costs in addition, an urgent need to re-think its policies and procedures, a possible re-design of “The Pit”, and probably claims against them by other musicians.

But the issues in this judgment were limited to breach of duty and causation of the claimant’s injury, with damages to be assessed later.

Mr Goldscheider said he had sustained acoustic shock during the course of his employment at the ROH on Saturday 1 September 2012 when the orchestra was in the pit rehearsing Wagner’s ‘Die Walküre’. As a result of the way that the conductor arranged the orchestra, the Claimant was positioned immediately in front of a group of about 18 to 20 brass players.  Continue reading

Two New Podcasts: Private Hospital Liability

We have posted two new episodes of Law Pod UK today.

Episodes 25  and 27 feature extracts from the seminar given by 1 Crown Office Row in February 2018 on the lessons learned from the Paterson litigation. These are free and available for download.

Episode 26  Law Pod UK: Hannah Noyce discusses vicarious liability in private hospitals and clinics

Episode 27 Law Pod UK: Dominic Ruck Keene summarises non-delegable duty in private hospitals and clinics

Seminar handout

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Sensitisation to allergy is physical injury – Supreme Court

Dryden and Others v Johnson Matthey [2018] UKSC 18 – read judgment 

We are all made of stuff, and that stuff is not inert because it’s organic matter. Changes at the molecular level happen all the time, through cell death and replenishment, growth and the constant attrition caused by cosmic radiation on our DNA.  Other changes are wrought by the environment or other organisms. Some changes are beneficial, even life saving, such as the removal of an appendix or the insertion of a pacemaker.  The production of antibodies by vaccination have eradicated many diseases.  Most of the time the body manages this itself.  Every time certain cells in the blood encounter a foreign invader, they recruit the immune system to come up with a focussed weapon. This is an antibody, which lies dormant until the threat (the antigen) arises again.  Antibodies are good things to have around until they’re provoked by enemies akin to the ones that created them, whereupon the body produces an allergic reaction to get rid of the toxin/allergen.

So, does the triggering of an antibody (an immunoglobulin molecule) constitute tortious injury, sounding in damages? This is the question raised by this case, and it goes to the heart of what “injury” is for the purposes of the law. Continue reading

Who is it that doesn’t like Mondays?

Moylett v Geldoff and Another (unreported)  Chancery Division (Carr J) 14 March 2018

Music nerds may remember with fondness the great copyright wrangle involving Procul Harum and Bach.   The focus of that dispute was the organ line in the 1967 hit Whiter Shade of Pale, and  Blackburne J’s judgment is imperative reading for anyone interested in the law’s dominion over music, ideas or intellectual property in general. Go to the end of this post for a reminder of that entertaining litigation and its outcome.

Less esoteric but potentially as interesting is this application brought before Carr J in the Chancery Division by the “well known music band”, the Boomtown Rats. Continue reading

Listen Up! New episode of Law Pod UK just posted

Our very own Commissioning Editor, Jonathan Metzer, is discussing with Rosalind English the right of appeal against refusal of a residence card under the EU immigration rules for family and extended family members of UK citizens. He has also written a post on this and the reference to the European Court of Justice in  Banger (Unmarried Partner of British National) [2017] UKUT 125 (IAC)  .

Listen to Episode 24 Law Pod UK on Audiboom 

Law Pod is also available for free download in iTunes

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