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Cognitive Enhancement Technologies: Implications for Determination of Causality, Responsibility and Liability

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This article explores the implications of augmented cognition systems for the application of traditional concepts of cognition and autonomous action to concepts of liability and responsibility. Three hypothetical scenarios are used to frame issues of the potential impact of augmented cognition technology on the autonomy of the human partner. In terms of practical applications to law, altered autonomy can impact the status of operator as a rational agent. In criminal and tort law, these changes in rational agency must be viewed through legal concepts that distinguish humans from machines. The concepts of mens rea (mental activity underlying an action) and vicarious responsibility (secondary responsibility for actions of agents or subordinates) do not apply to a machine agent (software and hardware). Hence, a focal issue is the effect of a machine agent on the application of mens rea and vicarious responsibility to the operators, policy makers, and the machine's designers. Augmented cognition technologies also have the potential to mitigate bounded rationality. However, this mitigation can be at the expense of limiting rationality to inferences and cognitive structures that are defined by the augmentation system. The degree of constraint can then impact the application of mens rea to the operator in criminal law. Analogously, in tort law, both individual and secondary responsibility (e.g., vicarious responsibility) can be affected by altering rational agency. This argument returns us to the problems of determining strict and contributory liability for the operator, policy makers and augmented cognition systems designers. Finally, augmented cognition technologies can affect the application of criteria from formal logic that establish causation. In our scenarios, it seems clear that the contributions of the augmented cognition system can easily meet the criteria for causal factors from the philosophy of jurisprudence literature. The issue of duty of care incumbent on each party then becomes a relevant factor for deployment.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-06-01

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  • The journal Technology is a forum for presentation of information encompassing essentially the entire field of applied sciences. Owing to the broad nature of applied sciences, authors should be guided by the interest of the readers who are likely to be knowledgeable non-specialists.
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