Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Case of the Killer Robot

A friend and former colleague used The Case of the Killer Robot in his Ethics and Technology class at Ateneo de Naga. The case is basically "a detailed scenario that combines elements of software engineering and computer ethics", and is used primarily for ethics teaching and discussion purposes. The scenario begins with the indictment for manslaughter of a programmer who wrote faulty code that caused the death of a robot operator. The student is supposed to come up with a judgment, based on "different ethical perspectives and theories."

I decided to look at it from a different viewpoint, and here is what I could come up with.

First, Silicon Valley does not fall under Philippine jurisdiction. So, let us assume, arguendo, that the events happened in Philippine soil.

Absent any criminal intent on the part of the programmer Samuels, he can be found guilty of, at most, criminal negligence (Art. 365 Revised Penal Code). If Samuels is found to be criminally liable, then he would also be civilly liable per Art. 100 RPC.

Note that Samuels can argue that the injury was caused "by mere accident without fault or intention of causing it", which, according to the Art 12(4) of the RPC, would exempt him from criminal liability. This is without prejudice to a civil case that may be filed separately against him under Art. 2176 of the Civil Code.

His employer will be liable for the death of Matthews (Art. 2180 CC), unless, it can prove that it exercised the diligence of a good father of the family in hiring and supervising Randy Samuels.