The title of this post comes from the conclusion of Lawrence Solum’s Artificial Meaning, 89 Washington Law Review 69 (2014). Here’s a snip:
As time goes on, it seems likely that the proportion of legal content provided by AIs will grow in a fairly organic and gradual way. Indeed, the first time a human signs a contract that was generated in its entirety by an AI, the event might even escape our notice. It seems quite likely that our parsing of artificial meanings generated by AIs will simply be taken for granted. This will be no accident. Today, our social world is permeated by artificial legal meanings. Indeed, we can already begin to imagine a world in which the notion of a legal text authored by a single natural person begins to seem strange or antiquated.
Our world is already inhabited by AIs. Our law is already composed of artificial meanings. The twain shall meet.
Here’s the abstract for this very interesting essay:
This Essay investigates the concept of artificial meaning, meanings produced by entities other than individual natural persons. That investigation begins in Part I with a preliminary inquiry into the meaning of “meaning,” in which the concept of meaning is disambiguated. The relevant sense of “meaning” for the purpose of this inquiry is captured by the idea of communicative content, although the phrase “linguistic meaning” is also a rough equivalent. Part II presents a thought experiment, The Chinese Intersection, which investigates the creation of artificial meaning produced by an AI that creates legal rules for the regulation of a hyper-complex conflux of transportation systems. The implications of the thought experiment are explored in Part III, which sketches a theory of the production of communicative content by AI. Part IV returns to The Chinese Intersection, but Version 2.0 involves a twist — after a technological collapse, the AI is replaced by humans engaged in massive collaboration to duplicate the functions of the complex processes that had formerly governed the flow of automotive, bicycle, light-rail, and pedestrian traffic. The second thought experiment leads in Part V to an investigation of the production of artificial meaning by group agents — artificial persons constituted by rules that govern the interaction of natural persons. The payoff of the investigation is presented in Part VI. The communicative content created by group agents like constitutional conventions, legislatures, and teams of lawyers that draft complex transactional documents is artificial meaning, which can be contrasted with natural meaning — the communicative content of those exceptional legal texts that are produced by a single individual. This insight is key to any theory of the interpretation and construction of legal texts. A conclusion provides a speculative meditation on the implications of the new theory of artificial meaning for some of the great debates in legal theory.
Recommended. — Joe