Has Software Rights ?

So forget, for a while, the world's controversies over antiquated privileges granted to those who employ authors or inventors and consider the future. Folk have been seeking the holy grail of Artificial Intelligence since the computer was first conceived. If we succeed, surely we must suppose that our creations shall exhibit creativity much like our own: what shall be their rights ?

As it stands, making a copy of any work covered by a valid copyright is an infringement of the rights of the owner of the relevant copyright. If an AI, having read such a work, is able to recite the work - or a substantially similar expression of the same subject matter - then it cannot sensibly not be deemed to have made a copy. Yet an artificial intelligenve cannot comprehend and assimilate the culture that begets it unless it can read that culture's works and comprehend them - exactly as educated human bags of protoplasm do. Thus copyright law forbids artificial intelligence to receive an education from our culture.

Even before we attain the holy grail of artificial intelligence we must suppose - if we are ever to reach that goal - that we shall, along the way, devise computer programs that exhibit at least some of that monkey cleverness which makes it possible to invent; to solve problems others have not addressed, doubtless (like human inventors) exploiting knowledge derived from prior solutions to other problems, but deploying experience and theoretical knowledge in a judicious mix which need not be either novel or obvious. When such invention is novel, the patent system allows that someone - whether the artificial intelligence or some person responsible for its activity - is entitled to a monopoly on the exercise of that idea. When it is not, the same system insists that the same party is beholden to whoever holds the patent on the relevant idea. Neither face of this fares well so long as patents are not so clearly expressed that inventors can comprehend whether their ideas do, or do not, infringe: so long as the only way to answer that question is to (pray and) litigate, it is impractical for a computer program to do any thing at all - unless it is not only brilliant in the field of endeavour for which it was designed but also superlative in its command of the law (leaving aside all questions of the variation, among jurisdictions, in laws). Thus the law on patents prohibits us from using anything approaching artificial intelligence until we have, first, written a program capable of making all patent lawyers redundant.

Written by Eddy.
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