5 Things That Will Be a Crime in the Future That Didn’t Exist Five Years Ago
It can seem like the law was handed down to us on stone tablets by the big district attorney in the sky, but it usually takes someone going, “Hey, I’m pretty sure that infringes on my rights” before we make something a crime. It’s not like they asked rhetorically, “You wouldn’t download a car, would you?” before silent movies, right? No one knew what any of those words meant! With technology changing faster than ever, we’re gonna have to close all kinds of legal loopholes before we leave the field wide open for a very specific and embarrassingly dressed new kind of mafia.
Autonomous Vehicular Homicide
Imagine you’re tooling along in your little self-driving sedan, enjoying the view and your Wendy’s chili, when suddenly, for no apparent reason, the car goes rogue. This is bound to happen — all technology glitches occasionally, and we already put up with far greater-than-occasional car accidents. That’s little comfort, however, when you’re watching helplessly as you mow down an entire flock of nuns. (The plural noun is “flock,” right?) You’re already traumatized, and that’s before the manslaughter charges and civil suits from the nuns’ families.
Because no one has figured out who’s responsible if a self-driving car goes automobiley nuts and kills someone. There are almost no federal laws pertaining to autonomous vehicles, and only about half of all states have made any legal noises about them. Of the ones that have, most don’t specify liability at all; they’re largely concerned with whether the cars can be tested on public roads. (They can, generally! Yay?)
If these state laws even mention liability, a startling number only declare that it is not the fault of the corporation that built the car, no matter that that seems like the entity whose fault it most is. That’s the most agreement we’ve got; of the handful that make explicit designations, some say it’s the drivers’ fault, others say it’s the fault of the “driving system.” Not the corporation that built it, mind you. It’s not clear how to sue a car, so try not to get hit by one in Tennessee.
Unauthorized Use of A.I.-Generated Images
If you’re not quite terminally online, allow us to disabuse you of the notion that ChatGPT can write a pitch-perfect episode of Seinfeld. All it’s really doing is combing the Seinfeld canon and cutting and pasting a bunch of lines and scenes together to form a new story, which is admittedly dope, but it ain’t writing. The weird thing is, if the entire cast and crew of Seinfeld got together and decided to film that new episode, they might not be allowed because the copyright might belong to the person who typed “Write me a new Seinfeld episode” rather than all the Seinfeld writers the software yoinked from.
There are several lawsuits currently in progress that will decide whether original creators, software, software developers or users will own the copyrights of “generative A.I.” works. It’s unlikely the answer will be the software, as most countries’ copyright offices are sticklers for prohibiting “non-humans” from owning copyrights, no matter how cute our cats’ selfies are. It’s also not likely to be users, as one person wasn’t allowed to copyright a comic book they made from A.I.-generated images.
It may very well be the software developers, but it’s going to come down to whether the work is “transformative” enough. For example, if that Seinfeld episode eventually breaks down to Kramer bursting into Jerry’s apartment over and over, it’s probably legally original, as Seinfeld rarely commented on the cyclical nature of time. This would be a case-by-case thing, though, so it might be best to nip an embarrassing lawsuit in the bud and just keep your furry porn to yourself.
Hard Drive Murder
We’re closer than ever to making “San Junipero” a reality, but before we start dancing backward through the decades with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, we’ve got a lot of ethical and legal considerations to settle, chiefly, “Does an uploaded brain count as a person?” If you have any stake in the politics of abortion, you know that it turns out there are tons of ways to define “life” and “personhood,” and that gets infinitely more complicated when the proposed “life” in question is just a file on a server. The fact that it happens to be someone’s mind may or may not be significant.
This is gonna be immediately relevant because as soon as someone they hate comes in for the old Napster nap, there’s a good chance the uploading technician will “accidentally” screw up the procedure. After all, it’s not technically murder, is it? Or is it? What rights does an uploaded mind have? If not murder, what crime is that? Destruction of property? Whose property? And can we really compare pulling a “Before He Cheats” on some guy’s truck to doing it to his immortality? What about hackers? What if someone just wants to poke around in there? Surely that’s a more serious crime than hacking someone’s phone to play “One Week” every time they open it?
These are the questions our best legal minds will soon be headdesking about.
The Holes in the Outer Space Treaty
They all laughed when the U.N. got together to draft the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. We hadn’t even been to the moon yet, and these globalists (universists?) wanted to regulate all of outer space with zero knowledge of what kind of creatures might be out there to laugh at our adorable “regulations” before kicking us in the nuts.
Well, no one’s laughing now, as much as it would be warranted. It turns out the Outer Space Treaty is pretty inadequate even for addressing what it was meant to: the potential for space warfare. All the countries who signed have agreed not to plant nuclear weapons or otherwise engage in non-”peaceful” activity on any “celestial bodies,” but that doesn’t outright ban weaponizing space. Do the words “space Pearl Harbor” have any effect on your butthole? Because it’s looking more and more likely.
It’s also a real testament to the international nature of the treaty that it doesn’t really touch on commercial activity, when you know as soon as the U.S. landed on the moon, their first thoughts were “How can we turn this into money?” To be clear, no one can own the moon, and no celestial bodies are supposed to be “appropriated” by any country, but that hasn’t stopped some commercial enterprises from looking for ways around those rules, like having asteroids declared not to be “celestial bodies” so they can mine them. Such a legal battle would likely take decades and create several new enemies, and what’s more American than that?
When scientists ranked potential A.I.-related crimes in a 2020 study, they rated deepfakes as the biggest cause for concern. Why? The ability to create images and video of people doing things they never actually did is right at the sour spot of being nearly impossible to defeat and most harmful and/or profitable. And more than 90 percent of deepfakes are porn, because humanity is just the worst.
Consider how long it took us to get laws about any kind of revenge porn, and you’ll see the problem here. Currently, the deepfake porn cases that are prosecuted at all are mostly done under these laws, with only four states having any laws pertaining to this unique brand of grossness. That’s hard to do because a lot of these laws require the depiction of the victim’s squishy bits to qualify as revenge porn, and obviously, deepfake porn doesn’t do that. Congress is currently debating a bill that would specifically ban deepfake porn, because there are apparently people who exist who need to debate that.