The Normative Challenges of AI in Outer Space: Law, Ethics, and the Realignment of Terrestrial Standards

Philosophy and Technology 36 (2):1-23 (2023)
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Abstract

The paper examines the open problems that experts of space law shall increasingly address over the next few years, according to four different sets of legal issues. Such differentiation sheds light on what is old and what is new with today’s troubles of space law, e.g., the privatization of space, vis-à-vis the challenges that AI raises in this field. Some AI challenges depend on its unique features, e.g., autonomy and opacity, and how they affect pillars of the law, whether on Earth or in space missions. The paper insists on a further class of legal issues that AI systems raise, however, only in outer space. We shall never overlook the constraints of a hazardous and hostile environment, such as on a mission between Mars and the Moon. The aim of this paper is to illustrate what is still mostly unexplored or in its infancy in this kind of research, namely, the fourfold ways in which the uniqueness of AI and that of outer space impact both ethical and legal standards. Such standards shall provide for thresholds of evaluation according to which courts and legislators evaluate the pros and cons of technology. Our claim is that a new generation of sui generis standards of space law, stricter or more flexible standards for AI systems in outer space, down to the “principle of equality” between human standards and robotic standards, will follow as a result of this twofold uniqueness of AI and of outer space.

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