Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Musing about AI and responsibility

A recent article on the Ethics of AI led me to think about responsibility for the consequences of decisions by an AI entity.

Arguably, however autonomous an AI entity, its manufacture, programming, and energising must derive, directly or indirectly from an human originator or human enterprise – a creator – accessible in a way our Creator is not – at least in this world.

That creator may have delegated duties to an operator such as the driver/pilot of an autonomous vehicle. My point is that, at some level, the most autonomous device always will be directly or indirectly traceable to a legal person; a second – or higher – level device ultimately will be so traceable.

Even when the intellect of the artefact becomes superior to that of the human originator, as it may, the artefact will remain an artefact. Its decisions are the responsibility – be it never so indirect – of a human.

There will be a question as to the human succession when the first originator dies but the law, though differing from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, can deal with such problems.

An autonomous vehicle at large is, I imagine, no different from a tiger. The owner is responsible. The English case of Rylands v Fletcher [1868] UKHL 1, LR 3 HL 330, (1868) LR 3 HL 330 provided strict liability for the release of dangerous things that cause damage. I would expect other jurisdictions to have such a law. I would suggest that it is a logical part of Natural Law.

I haven’t seen much discussion of ultimate liability in the generalisations about the ethics of quasi-autonomous entities, but I may not have been looking. I would be interested in any reaction to my proposition. There is something finite about an accessible, worldly creator.

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I couldn’t find this extract by searching through the usual sources, so I thought it might be handy to put it here.  I have no idea whether or not it remains good law (the old White Book has been superseded by CPR – this is all about England and Wales) but is seems worth an airing!

Note to s.67, Solicitors Act 1974

Extract from The Supreme Court Practice 1982 at [3071] p.851.

As far as the fees of expert witnesses are concerned, in the case of Re Leighton (Solicitor), Young v Leighton, in Chambers, 1969 unreported, Mocatta J. called on the Taxing Masters for a certificate as to the practice. This was given in the following terms:

To the Hon Mr Justice Mocatta

In compliance with your Lordship’s direction the Taxing Masters of the Supreme Court Taxing Office beg respectfully to certify as follows:

  1. It is within our knowledge that solicitors who engage the services of a professional witness, or who call such a witness to give evidence on behalf of a client are personally liable as a matter of professional etiquette to discharge that witness’s fees, whether or not they have expressly or impliedly contracted to do so. It is settled practice for solicitors to pay such fees, which are treated as a professional disbursement as between solicitor and client in a solicitor and client bill of costs.
  2. Such disbursements are habitually treated upon taxation of such a bill as an item properly so introduced.

Dated November 21, 1969 Signed . . . . . . . . . .

Judgment was given in accordance with the terms of the certificate.

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I know nothing about taxes but I was recently asked to sign a petition demanding that Amazon should pay UK corporation tax, presumably on the basis that, if not a UK corporation, they sold a lot of goods in UK.

I remembered my late father, who was a Senior Principal Inspector of Taxes in his day, opining that all that was needed was one tax on every transaction, rather like VAT but with no recovery of input.  Just every time a pound changed hands, a shilling would go to the treasury.  I dare say it would be a larger proportion today, but I wonder how much.

As I understand his scheme, it’s a simple turnover tax, payable at every stage.  It has a moral and ideological basis: transactions are possible only because there is currency.  Currency is guaranteed by government.  It’s entirely reasonable that the government be paid for the use of the currency.  Before my friends with ‘local’ currencies ike the Brixton pound start saying, “Oh good, he doesn’t mean us!”, those currencies are really ‘piggy backed’ on the national currency and ultimately protected by the law of the land and thus the government.

With no corporation tax, it wouldn’t matter where a company was based.  Customers would pay the tax.  It wouldn’t matter where anyone lived, any payment from UK would be taxed, as would any payment made in pounds overseas.  Money imported would be taxed too.  There would be no income tax as such.  Every pound paid by an employer would be treated as a transaction and accompanied by its tithe or what ever the figure needed to be.

Of course a flat rate tax isn’t progressive.  As I see the scheme, A government would still be able to levy a separate progressive tax but it could be honest.  No confusion between paying for government and its deficits on the one had and social adjustment on the other.   A tax to pay for government separate from a tax to solve problems of inequality.

No doubt there would be technical problems, but isn’t that what the Civil Service is for, to solve problems?

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