I am pleased to announce another American Bar Association Artificial Intelligence and Robotics National Institute this fall. The Institute is a continuing legal education program, although given the interdisciplinary nature of the program, we hope that many non-lawyers will join us. Because of COVID, the Institute will be online over a series of five Wednesdays with three hour-long panels each starting on September 30, 2020. I serve as Founder and Chair of the Institute. The goal of this year’s Institute is to tackle the big artificial intelligence and robotics issues – both today’s and tomorrow’s.
The online conference format is both an accommodation in light of the inability for us to gather in person because of the COVID-19 virus. We had such deep and meaningful personal interactions at our first national institute, it is sad to not have an in-person event. Nonetheless, we are making lemonade from lemons by offering our program online. We hope the Institute will play to the strengths of an online platform.
First, anyone around the world can attend from a home or office without the need of travel. We hope to spread the word and build a broader community of people concerned with AI and robotics legal issues and public policy. Second, the format offers us the ability to join the Institute with its sister program – the American Bar Association Internet of Things National Institute. On September 30, we are bringing the speakers and audiences from both Institutes together for one large online gathering to talk about the most urgent crossover issues of the day involving AI and IoT. We would not be able to have a joint meeting of both Institutes if we were meeting live.
So, what are the big issues we will address in this year’s Institute? Let’s turn first to the key issues of today. First, the country and world are combatting the COVID-19 virus. The AI and Robotics National Institute will have two COVID programs – one on September 30 in the crossover with the IoT Institute covering contact tracing applications and their privacy implications and another one on October 7 talking about what AI and robotics can do to fight COVID more generally.
Second, our country is undergoing a new national dialogue on race relations in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Our September 30 crossover program will have a program on civil rights issues from surveillance technologies using cameras and IoT sensors collecting data for processing using machine learning systems. Are these systems being used to violate civil rights and what can we do to protect civil rights? In addition, on October 7, we will have a program on the elimination of bias from AI systems. Biased data will cause bias and discriminatory results of AI applications. Nonetheless, data science, policies, procedures, and assessments can combat bias.
Finally, our nation is in the season of a consequential election season. Nonetheless, AI-fueled disinformation campaigns; deepfake images, video, and audio; and bot-powered messaging threaten our elections. On September 30, we are pleased to host former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., who will talk about the threats to elections and what we can do to preserve the integrity of election systems.
Our October 14 panels focus on industry sectors. We will begin with a program on advertising technology. How is AI fueling adtech, making advertising and marketing more effective? At the same time, how can companies make sure they are acquiring adtech systems that work and how can avoid violating consumers’ privacy rights? Next, we will turn to AI in manufacturing. Right now, AI is revolutionizing the manufacturing sector, making operations more effective and efficient. Finally, we will talk about the insurance sector. How will AI and robotics companies obtain the insurance they need to manage their risks of their own losses or liabilities to other parties? Right now, it’s difficult to find off the shelf insurance products that fit cutting edge products and services. This program will cover how companies can structure their risk management programs in light of what will be a hard insurance market with increasing premiums and decreasing scope of coverage.
October 21’s panels focus on corporate decision making. The first program of the day covers how corporate boards should handle the development and deployment of AI and robotics. This panel will cover the challenges of corporate governance in the AI era and provide tips for managing officer and director liability. The second panel will discuss national security. Many entrepreneurs in AI and robotics companies may be surprised to learn about national security related compliance obligations that may even upset plans for successful exits. At the same time, companies in AI and robotics fields may face threats from espionage and trade secret theft for economic or political gain by both state and non-state actors. The panel will discuss how companies can comply with applicable national security laws and protect themselves from the theft of intellectual property. The October 21 program will close with a discussion of product liability. When is a product or service ready to roll out from a safety perspective? How safe is safe enough? The panel will talk about how businesses will need to allocate resources to preserve consumer and public safety while not spending so much that they fail in the marketplace.
Our final program on October 28 will focus on the big issues of tomorrow. The first panel will cover legal ethics. Are a lawyer’s ethical duties informed only by what appears in the rules of professional conduct? Or do attorneys have duties beyond those rules? We will use hypotheticals based on artificial general intelligence and superintelligence – technologies that obviously aren’t addressed by today’s attorney ethics rules.
The second panel will talk about brain-computer interfaces and neural devices. What security, privacy, and other legal challenges will they cause? Imagine the possibility of devices that enhance our memories and processing powers in our brains. Now imagine the possibility of ransomware style malware used by attackers to hold our thoughts and mental processing power hostage. Also, will criminal defendants blame their brain implants for their criminal conduct? Neural devices may, in the long run, change what it means to be “human.” Is the destiny of the human species to merge with its technology, and will we achieve superintelligence to keep up with our machines as Elon Musk believes?
The final panel of the program poses the question of whether and when artificial intelligence systems should be granted the rights of legal “personhood” (or something similar). Futurists believe that someday AI systems will have intelligence capabilities that match or exceed human levels of intelligence. If machines are as intelligent or more intelligent than humans, will a day come when some AI systems gain the legal status of “persons” under the law? What would it take for policymakers to know the time is right for personhood status?
I believe that the days in which technology will infuse our bodies and that AI systems will exceed most human capabilities of intelligence. I say “most” because we may never have the ability to replicate emotional intelligence, empathy, and other aspects of human thinking in AI. Regardless, I believe it is only a matter of time before these technologies are with us. It may be that all of us present on earth right now may be gone before we see the anticipated changes. Nonetheless, I believe these technological developments are inevitable. The real question is whether we, as a species, will take timely action to “be prepared” for sweeping changes in technology, or will we wait until changes overtake us and catch us flat-footed as the COVID virus has.
I urge you to join us in a national and global awakening to the opportunities and threats of AI and robotics. I believe all of us play a role to make sure we develop, sell, buy, and operate AI systems and robots in a safe, compliant, and ethical manner. Please join us in this national dialogue on AI and robotics to address the big issues of today and tomorrow at the ABA Artificial Intelligence and Robotics National Institute. The Institute website is now up, it describes the program in more detail, I hope you register to attend this pathbreaking program on the site.
August 22, 2020