Washington Law Review

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Machines Without Principals: Liability Rules and Artificial Intelligence

March 01, 2014 | 89 Wash. L. Rev. 117

The idea that humans could, at some point, develop machines that actually “think” for themselves and act autonomously has been embedded in our literature and culture since the beginning of civilization. But these ideas were generally thought to be religious expressions—what one scholar describes as an effort to forge our own Gods—or pure science fiction. There was one important thread that tied together these visions of a special breed of superhuman men/machines: They invariably were stronger, smarter, and sharper analytically; that is, superior in all respects to humans, except for those traits involving emotional intelligence and empathy. But science fiction writers were of two minds about the capacity of super-smart machines to make life better for humans.

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