Science Fiction, BioEthics, and the Law: A Case-study of Machines and Me* as a Legal Pedagogical Tool

14 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2020

See all articles by Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto; Institute of World Politics; Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc.

Date Written: August 2, 2020

Abstract

As technology advances, the law, as usual, is far behind. The area of AI and robotics is but one example. Here, untutored commentators and philosophers are pre-occupied with the person-hood status of these “synthetic sapiens”- all the while missing deep-seated issues. Enter the world of science fiction - which has the unique ability to place and present future dilemmas in a human context, allowing us to “see” issues that currently are eluding us and perhaps deal with them proactively.

This essay presents the science fiction of Machines and Me by Ian McEwan as a hypothetical for teaching contemporary legal issues conjured by AI technology, issues which have yet to be imagined by contemporary legal theorists, let alone addressed. These include threshold concepts such as “what is a civil wrong” – a foundational principle of tort law. The clash between ethics, law, and morality as a determinant of punishment, vengeance/retribution, deterrence and the restorative justice functions of law is also encompassed within the narrative. This conceptualization of the conflicting objectives of machine deep learning and human morality, as portrayed in this sci-fi novel, presents fodder for discussion as a cautionary tale, a warning to prevent us from being sucked into an AI Future-world, unawares.

Keywords: Robots, AI, Machine Learning, Ethics, Morality, Tort, Civil Wrong, Science Fiction, Hypothetical, Legal Pedagogy

JEL Classification: C63, C72, C73, I28, K13, K32, K42, Y30, Y93, Z18,Z13

Suggested Citation

Billauer, Barbara P. and Billauer, Barbara P., Science Fiction, BioEthics, and the Law: A Case-study of Machines and Me* as a Legal Pedagogical Tool (August 2, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3665603 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3665603

Barbara P. Billauer (Contact Author)

International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto ( email )

Rua Dr. Roberto Frias
4200-464 Porto
Portugal

Institute of World Politics ( email )

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Washington, DC
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+1 202-462-2101 (Phone)

Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc. ( email )

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Washington, DC 20036
United States
972 54 344 6055 (Phone)

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