New Zealand Law Foundation launches major AI law and policy study

by Sol Dolor20 Jan 2017
The New Zealand Law Foundation has launched a major artificial intelligence (AI) law and policy study.

The three-year multi-disciplinary study is supported by a $400,000 grant from the Law Foundation and is being run out of Otago University.

The project – which will consider implications of AI technologies under responsibility and culpability, transparency and scrutiny, employment displacement, and “machine morality” – the will be funded under the foundation’s $2-million Information Law and Policy Project (ILAPP).

Dr Colin Gavaghan, the project’s leader, says that interesting legal, practical and ethical challenges are arise from the use of AI technologies.

“AI technologies have a veneer of objectivity, because people think machines can’t be biased, but their parameters are set by humans. This could result in biases being overlooked or even reinforced,” he said.

“Also, because those parameters are often kept secret for commercial or other reasons, it can be hard to assess the basis for some AI-based decisions. This ‘inscrutability’ might make it harder to challenge those decisions, in the way we might challenge a decision made by a judge or a police officer.”

Another conundrum given by Gavanagh as an example is when a driverless car chooses which among pedestrians and its occupants to prioritise in accidents. Mercedes-Benz had recently announced that its cars will prioritise its occupants during accidents.

According to the foundation, the AI study is the fourth to be approved under the ILAPP.

Gavaghan, an associate law professor and director of the New Zealand Law Foundation Centre for Emerging Technologies at University of Otago, is joined by Associate Professor Ali Knott, Department of Computer Science, and Associate Professor James Maclaurin of the Department of Philosophy on the team.

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