The law concerning robots… There’s no turning back now

Apr 13, 2017

A report calling for the law concerning robots and artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace has recently been published, showing that these things are here to stay


“The law is an ass.”


It was Charles Dickens who first popularized this saying in Oliver Twist.


What this phrase has always meant, was that the law can be applied contrary to common sense.


However, in this day and age, where developments in social norms are occurring at rates that governments and law making bodies are unable to keep up with, the common usage of this phrase has evolved, and now includes the application of laws that are outdated, and hence contrary to contemporary sensibilities.


Report On the law concerning robots & artificial intelligence


So, it strikes me, that the International Bar Association (IBA), a global forum for the legal profession that was established in 1947, recently published a report entitled “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Their Impact on the Workplace”, calling for enactment of the law concerning robots and artificial intelligence.


IBA - Law concerning robotsThis was not some scanty report to appease a political faction of futurists, but a 120-page report that focuses on potential future trends of AI, and the impact intelligent systems will have on the labour market, the structures of companies, employees’ working time, remuneration and the working environment, and the importance of implementing the law concerning robots and artificial intelligence.


What was truly striking was that the report calling for the law concerning robots and artificial intelligence, was not published by technology lawyers, but by employment lawyers, and notably by the IBA’s Global Employment Institute.


It looks at the implications of what is known as Industrial Revolution 4.0 which the report defines as the integration of the physical product and software, and states categorically that Industrial Revolution 4.0 is here, with pioneering companies like Amazon, Uber, Facebook, smart factories and 3D printing.


The report’s lead author Gerlind Wisskirchen, an employment lawyer from Cologne, said:

“What is new about the present revolution (Industrial Revolution 4.0 when compared with previous Industrial Revolutions) is the alacrity with which change is occurring and the broadness of impact being brought about by AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics…


Jobs at all levels in society now undertaken by humans are at risk of being reassigned to robots or AI, and the legislation once in place to protect the rights of human workers may be no longer fit for purpose…


New labour and employment legislation is urgently needed to keep pace with increased automation…”


Download the entire report here.


The report calls for countries to enact the law concerning robots and artificial intelligence to address what workers may experience as AI becomes more prevalent, through to issues of responsibility when things go wrong.


The law follows not leads…


Since the law can only ever catch up with changes and society, and is often slow to do so, the fact that the law is starting to address this, must mean to us, that the change has happened.


I urge you not to take this lightly, and to take the time to reskill, before you need the law to protect you.


Because by then, the law may be an ass, again.



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