Company Law and Autonomous Systems: A Blueprint for Lawyers, Entrepreneurs, and Regulators

By SHAWN BAYERN, THOMAS BURRI, THOMAS D. GRANT, DANIEL M. HÄUSERMANN, FLORIAN MÖSLEIN, AND RICHARD WILLIAMS;

In discussions of the regulation of autonomous systems, private law — specifically, company law — has been neglected as a potential legal and regulatory interface. As one of us has suggested previously,1 there are several possibilities for the creation of company structures that might provide functional and adaptive legal “housing” for advanced software, various types of artificial intelligence, and other programmatic systems and organizations — phenomena that we refer to here collectively as autonomous systems, for ease of reference. In particular, this prior work introduces the notion that an operating agreement or private entity constitution (such as a corporation’s charter or a partnership’s operating agreement) can adopt, as the acts of a legal entity, the state or actions of arbitrary physical systems. We call this the algorithm-agreement equivalence principle. Given this principle and the present capacities existing forms of legal entities, companies of various kinds can serve as a mechanism through which autonomous systems might engage with the legal system.

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