From Northern Ireland to Saint Martins: A discussion about law and A.I.

Brian Messing, Editor-in-Chief


Saint Martin’s is an exciting place to study because of the diverse mixture of people that come through these halls. In addition to having a study abroad office that grants Saint Martin’s students many opportunities, we are able to host a variety of students on our campus each year from across the globe, to share our culture and become a part of our community.

Heather Roberts is one such student. Originally from Liverpool, England, and having lived there for her entire life, Roberts chose to study at The Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, despite never having visited Northern Ireland before. 

“I’ve always been quite adventurous…all my friends were staying in England…Northern Ireland was a place that I had never given time to properly explore,” said Roberts. 

This same spirit of adventure was what led Roberts to study at Saint Martin’s. Roberts was given a choice of nearly 50 colleges in the U.S. to study at, and looked at each one individually on Google to decide where to go. There was one thing she noticed as she reviewed the list.

“…almost all of the colleges were on the East Coast and I thought that if I went there I wouldn’t have made it to [the West Coast],” explained Roberts. 

An avid rock climber, Roberts was attracted to the nature and outdoor activities found in the Western United States. Roberts is pursuing a law degree at The Queen’s University. 

“I’ve been interested in law since a young age,” Roberts said.

In the U.K., unlike the U.S., undergraduate programs offer law degrees, and further training is needed to be able to practice law. Roberts is most interested in Intellectual Property law, specifically as it relates to artificial intelligence (A.I.). As an emerging field that many people are trying to learn quickly, a lot of laws and legal principles are being applied to new kinds of questions that we did not have to ask before.

Roberts describes one example of a potential case in which someone is injured by A.I., and the question of responsibility for the injury is left looming. 

“Who would be responsible for that case?” asked Robert. “Could we attribute the A.I. to having a being status? Or is it the person who invented the A.I. [who should be held responsible]?” 

Roberts points out that this line of reasoning can have potentially unintended consequences. She notes that as a modern society, which is built upon many inventions (frequently made with previous inventions), it will be difficult to draw a line for when the inventor of an invention is accountable or not accountable.

Another similar issue is self-driving cars. Roberts notes that it takes the issues with A.I. that cause smaller problems and enlarges them since cars are more accident-prone already. She mentions a scenario in which a person is killed by a self-driving car, and responsibility must be assigned for the death of the victim

“If you attribute the A.I. [for the accident], you can’t put the A.I. in prison…it takes away [social] responsibility.”

However, on the whole, Roberts believes that we should look at A.I. from a cost-benefit perspective. 

“There’s definitely are a lot of ways for things to end badly, but also a lot of ways to improve productivity and boost the economy.”


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