The Robot and Human Futures: Visualising Autonomy in Law and Science Fiction


This article argues that legal discourses about robots are framed within a limiting ‘human paradigm.’ While this is not a specific failure of lawyers, it has significant consequences for law in a digital future. This visualising of robots has its origins in mainstream twentieth-century science fictional tropes of artificial beings. This article begins by identifying the predominant science fiction tropes regarding artificial beings as a source of anxiety for human futures, as located in discrete bodies and as separate from humans. The article then traces this ‘human paradigm’ in robot law scholarship. It is shown how a focus on embodiment and separation disrupts appreciation of the emerging partial disembodiment and hybridity of digital autonomy. There is a continual sense of needing to keep robots and humans distinct and separate, which is not how digital futures are manifesting

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