DOI: 10.5553/IISL/2020063006003

International Institute of Space LawAccess_open


Whose Fault Is It? Artificial Intelligence and Liability in International Space Law

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    Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly used in space activities. AI employs machine learning techniques, which enable the system to automatically improve its performance by exposure to large amounts of data. Such technological developments entail that space activities will be conducted with increased system autonomy. However, this makes its behavior largely unpredictable, Thus, questions arise on how AI impacts the current system of liability under international space law. This paper submits that cases that require ‘fault’ of the launching State will become (even) more difficult to handle, in view of the challenges in defining ‘fault’ and in establishing causal connection between the fault and the damage. Fault may be indicated by non-compliance with established international rules or codes of conduct, by insufficient regard of other States’ interests under Art. IX OST, or by unreasonable behavior. These parameters are examined in relation to AI, alongside additional AI-specific factors, e.g. training data. If AI is used to support human decisions through recommendations, then human factors should also be considered, such as appropriate warnings and user-friendly system design. Moreover, explainability of AI decisions is highly desirable, but also hard to materialize owing to the complexity of AI systems. In any case, comparing AI behavior with human behavior should not be excluded, but extreme caution is required. The paper concludes that it is necessary to establish international regulations on space activities, even in non-binding form, and international, performance-based safety standards. Any gaps in victim protection will have to be filled by national legislation and insurance.

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