Should robots be granted a limited legal personhood? It might be good for all of us, says one lawyer-commentator. (photo: Wikimedia Commons).

Should robots be granted a limited legal personhood? It might be good for all of us, says one lawyer-commentator. (photo: Wikimedia Commons).

This Wednesday, the Phoenix City Council takes up suggested changes to the City code that would regulate the use of unmanned aerial systems—drones—in city parks. Based on some public debate I’ve heard about the issue, anything adopted is likely to be based little on science and much on stalling technology we don’t yet understand. But whatever. Somewhere, the FAA chuckles.

(I also have to wonder about the role drone restrictions will play in the STEM gap that already affects urban neighborhoods more than suburban ones. Commentary I’ve heard suggested that urban areas are simply “too congested” for recreational or other drone use, and they should be allowed only in the suburbs. So here would be another cutting-edge technology kept far away from urban schoolkids. I’m guessing future college freshmen will be less than competitive touting their kite-flying skills.)

This morning I read an interesting essay that explores humans’ convoluted relationship with machines. It may go some way toward explaining our often knee-jerk reaction against these strange contraptions that can do so much that we cannot.

Written by a Boston lawyer, the essay is part of a nationwide project called Future Tense that includes Arizona State University—it’s worth keeping track of. (As they describe it, “Future Tense [is] a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, and Slate.”)

Attorney John Frank Weaver analogizes humans’ evolving view of animal protections and suggests a similar approach would benefit us in regard to machines. Like animals, machines and how we treat them say a lot about us, and those interactions have moral implications. And it’s not just the “cute” animals that need legal protections, he argues. We also need to safeguard the more ugly machines. As he writes:

“[I]n focusing on laws that protect how we socialize with anthropomorphized robots, we need to make sure not to ignore plainer robots. They need legal protections, too. In fact, I have gone so far as to recommend that we should grant them limited legal personhood. It’s not because we should empathize with them—it’s because laws governing interactions with ugly bots could improve their utility and benefit to humans.”

Did someone say drone?

Read the whole piece here.

Ugly robots deserve protection and maybe some love too

Ugly robots (even drones) deserve protection and maybe some love too.

Are drones the future? Or annoyances that should be grounded?

Are drones the future? Or annoyances that should be grounded?

“All politics is local,” famously remarked once-Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill. And that is certainly true in the increasingly rancorous debate over the use of drones. A subject that we might believe is all-FCC increasingly becomes a local battle.

An Arizona Republic story this week describes the growing resistance to unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS. As the story explains, the anti-drone gauntlet has been picked up vehemently in Paradise Valley, and more gingerly in Phoenix.

As I have mentioned before, I continue to be intrigued by the little whirly-gigs and the legal questions that swarm around them. (And we covered some of those topics in Arizona Attorney Magazine.)

Looking toward the horizon (which would be easier from a drone), I think that UAS are bound to become an even more central part of everyday life. Despite the best efforts of municipalities, drones’ multiple possible uses and relative low cost nearly guarantee their increased use. Is there anyone who wagers the FAA will ignore that economic impact when it develops new rules of engagement? I didn’t think so.

I’m developing a short list of lawyers who are adept in the legal world of drones. I look forward to connecting with them on coverage of what’s next, and how the regulation of drones may ascend—or settle back down to earth.

Drone unmanned aerial device These little devices are increasingly airborne. But what questions do they raise?

These little devices are increasingly airborne. But what questions do they raise?

We have covered drones before, in print and online. And a recent event I attended in which the skies above contained a whirring sound renewed my interest in them.

I was attending the groundbreaking for a condo project called Portland on the Park near downtown Phoenix. A downtown booster, I was there to applaud the creation of what looks to be a terrific structure.

Soon after the speeches were done, though, I gazed upward at what sounded like a lawnmower above our heads. But what I saw was a drone, hovering, zigging, and zagging. I realized we were being taped.

Just yesterday, via Facebook and Youtube, I got to view the fruits of the drone’s labors. You can see it below.

The view is great (even if the song choice is odd). I have to admit it gives you a new way to see things. But I wondered: Were there permits? Flight plans? Local or regional officials alerted?

Don’t misunderstand: I don’t insist all of that should be required if someone wants to view a simple groundbreaking or their kid’s T-ball game. But I had to wonder.

And so I wonder again, do any of our readers’ practice area involve the laws surrounding unmanned aerial devices? Do drones affect your day job? If so, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org