Two decades of analysis have produced a rich set of insights as to how the law should apply to the Internet’s peculiar characteristics. But, in the meantime, technology has not stood still. The same public and private institutions that developed the Internet, from the armed forces to search engines, have initiated a significant shift toward robotics and artificial intelligence.
This article is the first to examine what the introduction of a new, equally transformative technology means for cyberlaw (and law in general). Robotics has a different set of essential qualities than the Internet and, accordingly, will raise distinct issues of law and policy. Robotics combines, for the first time, the promiscuity of data with the capacity to do physical harm; robotic systems accomplish tasks in ways that cannot be anticipated in advance; and robots increasingly blur the line between person and instrument.
Cyberlaw can and should evolve to meet these challenges. Cyberlaw is interested, for instance, in how people are hardwired to think of going online as entering a “place,” and in the ways software constrains human behavior. The new cyberlaw will consider how we are hardwired to think of anthropomorphic machines as though they were social, and ponder the ways institutions and jurists can manage the behavior of software. Ultimately the methods and norms of cyberlaw — particularly its commitments to interdisciplinary pragmatism — will prove crucial in integrating robotics, and perhaps whatever technology follows.