2016 Annual Review
2016 Annual Review

Robots and AI promise new opportunities and new legal challenges

Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) moved further into mainstream consciousness in 2016 with the increased use of drones and the advancement of self-driving cars. Promising new investment opportunities await.

The rise of robots and AI could have an enormous impact on the future workplace, raising new legal issues and offering investors novel opportunities.

The introduction of self-driving cars alone could be significant, as self-driving car technology will become operational within the next decade. Commercial transportation is among the largest employment sectors globally, and the advance of autonomous driving will have a significant impact on the sector and its workforce.

Experts believe that few industries will escape unscathed. Estimates on how many jobs will be lost vary widely, but a 50 percent reduction of jobs over the next two decades is conceivable.

Robots will also give rise to new disruptive legal issues. Who is responsible in a machine-to-machine accident? How can a robot be liable for harm inflicted on a human?

Despite these questions, this new world offers opportunities for investors. The Bank of America Merrill Lynch global Robot Revolution report highlights eight entry points: AI (machine learning, deep learning, natural user interfaces); aerospace and defense (including drones); autos and transport; financials; healthcare; industrials; services (domestic); and agriculture and mining.

But investors should proceed with caution. Questions remain about how investments in AI technology—spanning algorithms and data—will be protected in an era where intellectual property protections may be receding, engineers and developers are more mobile, and cyber risks continue to grow. The law is changing, but perhaps not quickly enough. Corporate legal strategies need, whenever possible, to lead and not lag behind changes in technology.


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