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Friday, February 9, 2018

Robots, Law and the Retribution Gap

John Danaher
Ethics and Information Technology
December 2016, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 299–309

We are living through an era of increased robotisation. Some authors have already begun to explore the impact of this robotisation on legal rules and practice. In doing so, many highlight potential liability gaps that might arise through robot misbehaviour. Although these gaps are interesting and socially significant, they do not exhaust the possible gaps that might be created by increased robotisation. In this article, I make the case for one of those alternative gaps: the retribution gap. This gap arises from a mismatch between the human desire for retribution and the absence of appropriate subjects of retributive blame. I argue for the potential existence of this gap in an era of increased robotisation; suggest that it is much harder to plug this gap than it is to plug those thus far explored in the literature; and then highlight three important social implications of this gap.

From the Discussion Section

Third, and finally, I have argued that this retributive gap has three potentially significant social implications: (i) it could lead to an increased risk of moral scapegoating; (ii) it could erode confidence in the rule of law; and (iii) it could present a strategic opening for those who favour nonretributive approaches to crime and punishment.

The paper is here.