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In summary, the development and use of teleoperated robotic systems will continue to present new difficulties for the enforcement of local and international laws. These systems present a new capability for committing violent crimes at great distances that did not exist before. Moreover, the ability of tele-agency to separate actors from their actions will further enable the exploitation of inconsistencies between the legal standards of different jurisdictions. These legal issues are likely to be exacerbated by recent developments in international trade and globalization. There are some counterweights to these rather bleak possibilities how ever. First, robots only provide a margin of anonymity to their controller and not complete anonymity. Second, there are fundamental asymmetries in tele-agency, such that information can be transmitted in both directions, but material entities and properties are stuck on the effector end of the robotic system. Finally, the jurisdiction issues could be addressed by international courts or universal jurisdiction, but the establishment of such courts is unlikely, and most cases of telerobotic crimes will fail to rise to the current high standards set for universal jurisdiction.
Date of Publication: March 2011