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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Robotics and the Law (LAWS10196)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course introduces students to the legal and wider regulatory issues raised by the increasing use of automated and autonomous devices. As we increasingly allow machines to make decisions for us, this raises significant problems for our legal concepts of liability, responsibility legal personhood. Do we need law to prevent the ┬┐robot uprising┬┐ beloved by Science Fiction writers?
Course description Since robots rely on sensors to perform their tasks, they also raise issues of data protection and privacy. The legal issues raised by autonomous agents that conclude contracts online on behalf of their owner will be discussed, as will be the regulatory issues of care/ companion robots in a medical setting, selfdriving cars and the automated city; and military applications such as drones The course covers both embodied artificial intelligence systems (robots) and non-embodied devices (autonomous agents). Legal ramifications of these technologies are studied also with a view on their political, economic and ethical implications. Special attention will be given to efforts to create an international legal regime and associated proposals to standardise certain legal responses to robot technology globally.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the specific legal issues that are created by a number of particularly important applications of robotics and autonomous agent technology, students will also acquire a generic understanding of the types of problems that are raised by autonomous technologies for the theory of regulation. They will gain an understanding of the limits of regulation by law and the ability to evaluate comparatively other modes of regulation for a given problem
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Spaces on this course are allocated as part of the Law Honours Course Allocation process. Places are generally only available to students who must take Law courses. To request a space on this course, please email
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis course is only open to visiting students coming through a direct exchange with the School of Law (including Erasmus students on a Law-specific Exchange). Exchange students outside of Law and independent study abroad students are not eligible to enrol in this course, with no exceptions.

**Please note that 3rd year Law courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.**
Priority will be given to students studying on exchange within the Law department, and it is highly unlikely that there will be additional spaces for general exchange students & independent study abroad students to enrol; we will look into this on a case-by-case basis in September/January. Visiting students are advised to bear in mind that enrolment in specific courses can never be guaranteed, and you may need to be flexible in finding alternatives in case your preferred courses have no available space.

These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course will be assessed by 100% coursework, consisting of two parts. Students will receive a take home exam type problem question that requires teamwork to solve. Each group will submit their reflexive report (on how work was sub-divided, how priorities were set, problems solved etc) of up to 1500 words, and then each group member their individual reports (of up to 3.500 words) The two pieces are marked together, to include the degree of connectivity between them, for a 100% mark.
Feedback Students will receive verbal feedback during class participation. Since the final assessment will be a combination of group activity and individual reports, several weeks will have similar group activities. Each will conclude with peer assessment, followed by feedback provided by the Course Tutor. In the midterm activity, this process will be formalised - students will mark their activities using the marking scheme, and receive written feedback on their use and understanding of it.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have gained a broad understanding of the legal issues created by autonomous technologies ,extensive knowledge of existing legal responses to them, and a rigorous understanding of the interaction between economic, psychological, political , societal and ethical issues that regulators face now and in the near future when dealing with autonomous technologies.
  2. Understand the different modes of regulation that are available for regulators tackling autonomous technologies and their interaction, so that they can evaluated efficiency, proportionality and necessity of existing or suggested regulation, and develop their own proposals for the regulation of future challenges.
  3. Have acquired the skill to carry out independent research in the intersection between law and technology, including an ability to work in multidisciplinary groups with disciplines and legal cultures other than their own, and to communicate their findings to audiences from a range of disciplinary and jurisdictional backgrounds.
  4. Have acquired the skill to from and defend with arguments opinions in fields where the law is not yet settled, develop creative solutions to current social and legal problems and mediate between conflicting interests and value commitments, using computer enhanced communication tools such as wikis and other social media tools
Reading List
Isaac Asimov, I, Robot, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1950.
Have gained a broad understanding of the legal issues created by autonomous technologies ,extensive knowledge of existing legal responses to them, and a rigorous understanding of the interaction between economic, psychological, political , societal and ethical
Lin, Patrick, Keith Abney, and George A. Bekey. Robot ethics: the ethical and social implications of robotics. MIT Press, 2011.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Develop original and creative responses to problems
- Work in heterogeneous teams to tight deadlines and coordinate efforts towards a joint task
- Communicate with other students (including students from different cultures, academic and otherwise) , policy makers, scientific experts and advisors
KeywordsRobotics,Law,Robots,Artificial Intelligence,Regulation,Science and Technology in Society
Course organiserProf Burkhard Schafer
Tel: (0131 6)50 2035
Course secretaryMiss Robyn Blyth
Tel: (01316) 514550
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