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Law and Human Machine Interaction


Course Information

Automating every aspect of society revolutionizes how humans interact with private organizations and public authorities. Assistive robots help people eat, dress, and walk. Intelligent home appliances help us cook, vacuum, and surveil the place on holiday. Medical robots help surgeons operate and do therapy, and sex robots may help disabled populations enjoy the pleasures their condition deprived them of. Algorithms also determine whether people get a loan, go to college, or enter the hospital. These machines are just a few devices that increasingly interact with humans in private, professional, or public settings.

As one can imagine, introducing these technologies does not entail mere instrumental changes that improve resource efficiency, restrain expenditure, or help improve our life. On the contrary, these changes are part of complex social processes that growingly include the industry and inevitably raise fundamental legal questions relating to safety, autonomy, privacy, responsibility, discrimination, and dignity, to which the answers are yet to be formulated. The growing use of data processing to support ulterior decision-making processes, for instance, leads to new vulnerabilities like discrimination against certain groups. Also, our laws focus very much on physical safety, whereas we interact with machines in many ways, and the continuous use of these machines may entail harm in ways that humans cannot necessarily correct or oversee. These processes raise questions about legitimacy, fairness, accountability, transparency, and empowerment, affecting the power balance between citizens, the government, and organizations. Failing to address these vulnerabilities in an increasingly automated society may impede adequate legal protection and erode human dignity.

Course Description

To avoid the potential adverse consequences AI, robots, and machines may have for society, we need to ensure that the future of AI is for, by, and of the people. This course will address and critically assess how the law regulates human-machine interactions. We do so by particularly looking at how society is automated. We begin the course by providing concrete examples of how we interact with machines. We also see how society is automated, including healthcare, farming, sex, and industrial robots. After setting the scene, we explore why societies around the globe see in technology the promise to increase productivity and resource efficiency and an excellent tool to restrain expenditure, although certain domains may not respond equally to the same parameters.

During the course, we will focus on the benefits but also the particular challenges revolving around the deployment of AI, robots, drones, and machines, including problems concerning transparency and explanation; potential discrimination scenarios and exacerbation of existing biases; the construction of responsibility in highly automated environments; and the blurring of well-established concepts such as safety, in the context of machines, AI and interconnected products. We will explore solutions, learn how Europe aims to regulate these new interactions and assess the risk posed by these technologies via risk assessments. We will close the course reflecting on the long-term consequences of human-machine interactions, the added value AI and robots bring to society, and how the law should balance innovation and user rights protection in an increasingly automated society.

Course Objectives

Overarching learning objectives

The course Law and Human-Machine Interaction has five main objectives:

  1. Students learn about different emerging AI and robot technologies, applications, and benefits.
  2. Students can identify, understand, and explain the main challenges of human-machine interactions from legal and regulatory perspectives.
  3. Students can place emerging AI and robot technologies in context and discuss how Europe currently regulates these technologies.
  4. Students are able to think critically about the deployment of AI in society from a legal viewpoint.
  5. Students learn and apply methodologies to assess the legal and ethical risks AI and machines pose to society.

Achievement levels

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the ability to weigh and evaluate the development of specific AI applications, see where potential regulatory and ethical challenges might arise in their use or deployment, and learn methodologies to be able to advise on designing AI technologies in a way that mitigates such issues. In particular:

● Understand the basic architecture and operation of robots, machines, and AI and the directions in which it will develop soon.

● Identify and recognize the potential benefits and drawbacks of deploying machines in society, including medical robots, industrial machines, self-driving cars, and drones.

● Learn and understand the fundamental regulatory issues concerning the deployment of machines and the relevance of design choices in their architecture.

● Understand the complexity of the regulatory and policy landscape to address the legal and regulatory issues arising from human-machine interaction.

● Learn practical methodologies to evaluate and mitigate the potential risks of implementing machines in different contexts.

Academic skills and attitude

Students will further develop writing, argumentation, and presentation skills by actively participating in classroom debates, systematically researching relevant legal questions, defending statements, both orally and in writing, and presenting their findings.


Attendance is mandatory as specified in Article 5.1 of the Course and Examination Regulations of the Master of Laws Advanced Studies Programmes.

Examination Method

● Group work (35 %) (aligns with O1-O5)

● Final exam (65%) (aligns with O1-O4)

The assignment is obligatory. The weighted final grade must be at least a 6.0 . Only the final (online) exam can be retaken: the grade for the assignment remains valid for the retake. The grades for the group work and the final exam are no longer valid once the academic year has ended.

Contact information

Programme Coordinator
Ms Patricia Garcia Fernandez
Telephone number: 0031- 71 527 4228

Should there be any future extenuating circumstances which may impinge our teaching and assessment, these could necessitate modification of the course descriptions after 1 September. This will only happen in the event of strict necessity and the interests of the students will be taken into account. Should there be a need for any change during the course, this will be informed to all students on a timely basis. Modifications after 1 September 2023 may only be done with the approval and consent of the Faculty Board and Programme Director