ELI Primary Menu

Skip to main content

iRobot Meets EPA: The Rule of Law in the Age of Artificial Intelligence


March 28, 2018


San Francisco, CA (and teleconference)

An ELI and Marten Law Public Seminar

In 2004, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) ran their first autonomous vehicle challenge on a barren stretch of land in California and Nevada. That year, not a single car drove more than 8 miles into the rugged dessert terrain without crashing. The following year, five vehicles using improved Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine learning systems traveled 150 miles across the desert to complete the course and thereafter the success rate continued to climb. In 2016, a self-driving truck successfully drove 132 miles through Colorado to deliver 51,744 cans of Budweiser beer.

As many observers have pointed out: we have entered the age of Artificial Intelligence. AI systems are not just driving cars and trucks, but increasing the efficiency of energy-intensive buildings such as data centers, as well as predicting snow melt and available hydropower reserves in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And this is just the beginning. As AI advances and environmental decision-making becomes internalized into AI algorithms, the legal, ethical, and public policy communities are in a unique position to ensure positive environmental outcomes, but some tantalizing questions are being raised.

Who exactly watches the watchmen, especially when AI systems can learn without human input or intervention? Will EPA need a Division of Algorithmic Oversight? Will future AI programs incorporate ‘regulatory bots’ to ensure compliance with environmental law? Will law practices benefit from new capabilities to audit AI systems for environmental and energy performance? Will AI offer another strategy for private environmental governance?

ELI's Dave Rejeski, Director of the Technology, Innovation and the Environment Program at the Environmental Law Institute discussed the new ELI report: When Software Rules: The Rule of Law in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

If you are an ELI member and are logged onto the Members site (the white For Members button at the very top of this page), you will see links below to available materials/recordings from this session. If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like this one, go HERE to see the many benefits of membership and how to join.

When Software Rules: Rule of Law in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (ELI, Feb. 2018, 36 pg.)
Listen to NPR WCAI Radio interview of David Rejeski (March 12, 2018)

When Software Rules: Rule of Law in the Age of Artificial Intellegence