The year is 2032. Audrey Paris, former federal prosecutor and now lead attorney for the A.I. engineering team at the recently-merged Google-IBM, is thrust to the forefront of the most provocative legal battle since the Scopes monkey trial.
One of the company’s humanoids is charged with murder in the second degree. Audrey moves to dismiss the case on the grounds that machines are not legal persons. The Department of Justice disagrees. Watson-5, the brains behind the humanoid, has passed the Turing Test and it must be held accountable for violations of the law.
But Federal Judge Harold S. Gordon is not buying either argument and turns to Robbie, the humanoid defendant at the center of the trial. The two lock horns during a short, but ambitious journey over difficult intellectual terrain. But the exchange doesn’t end well and Audrey and the Judge find themselves in a race, not only for themselves, but for the rest of humanity.
How to Build a Friendly Robot explores the depths of what leading scientists, like the late Stephen Hawking, have warned is the inevitable conflict between Man and Machine. Should a machine greatly surpass human beings in intelligence, what could go wrong? Are we doomed? Or can we co-exist with our super-intelligent devices?
The AI technologists, like Ray Kurzweil and Stuart Russell, are optimistic: Safety lies in aligning machine intelligence with human values. But what human values? And how will the machines learn them? These questions are addressed by opposing forces in a vigorous debate that spans the domains of mathematics, technology, and philosophy. The setting is fictitious, a federal courtroom, but the ideas are timeless, and the stakes are gravely real.
They say that philosophy can bake no bread. This book sets out to prove them wrong.
About The Author
Bob Kohn is a technology entrepreneur and copyright attorney. He is a former Visiting Scholar at Columbia Law School where he received his Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree and performed academic research on the legal and ethical aspects of artificial intelligence.
Mr. Kohn founded EMusic.com, the pioneering music download service, and is a leading expert witness in music law cases. His 1,800-page legal treatise, Kohn On Music Licensing, was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court. The book is widely recognized as "the bible on legal issues in the music world" (USA Today). Kohn has served both entertainment and technology industry clients, including Frank Sinatra, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Bob Gaudio (The Four Seasons), Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, BMG Rights Management, ASCAP, PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) Software, Borland Software, and others.
Mr. Kohn is a fellow at the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas and has taught law at Monterey College of Law. He lives in Manhattan.
Mortimer J. Adler
on Bob Kohn
Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher and editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Britannica, once posed the following philosophical problem: Explain the inheritance, or genetic transmission, of superior intellectual ability in some persons without asserting that the human intellect itself is material. Judging an essay contest for the best solution to the problem, Dr. Adler awarded the top prize to Bob Kohn, writing:
"[Mr. Kohn] seemed to know best . . . where the mystery begins, what we have to concede to it, and what (by virtue of hereditary mechanisms) we do not....[He showed] a gratifying familiarity with the Great Books of the Western World.”
— Mortimer J. Adler (The Great Ideas Today, 1994).