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From Ethics to Law: Why, When, and How to Regulate AI

Chesterman, Simon, From Ethics to Law: Why, When, and How to Regulate AI (April 29, 2023). Forthcoming in The Handbook of the Ethics of AI edited by David J. Gunkel (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.), NUS Law Working Paper No. 2023/014, Available at SSRN: or

“The past decade has seen a proliferation of guides, frameworks, and principles put forward by states, industry, inter- and non-governmental organizations to address matters of AI ethics. These diverse efforts have led to a broad consensus on what norms might govern AI. Far less energy has gone into determining how these might be implemented — or if they are even necessary. This chapter focuses on the intersection of ethics and law, in particular discussing why regulation is necessary, when regulatory changes should be made, and how it might work in practice. Two specific areas for law reform address the weaponization and victimization of AI. Regulations aimed at general AI are particularly difficult in that they confront many ‘unknown unknowns’, but the threat of uncontrollable or uncontainable AI became more widely discussed with the spread of large language models such as ChatGPT in 2023. Additionally, however, there will be a need to prohibit some conduct in which increasingly lifelike machines are the victims — comparable, perhaps, to animal cruelty laws.”

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