AI and Accountability

I believe that accountability becomes more pronounced in the era of AI. While the accountability dynamics between humans and machines may differ, humans will invariably assert that if someone had access to such advanced AI capabilities, they had the means to make more informed decisions.

An abstract image of Windsor Castle

In an incident that grabbed headlines a few years ago, Jaswant Singh Chail, a young man armed with a crossbow and a deadly intent, managed to get into Windsor Castle, aiming to assassinate the Queen. This followed his interactions with a Replika chatbot, culminating in a 9-year prison sentence. Before all this, he had exchanged more than 5,000 messages with Sarai, his Replika "friend". He thought Sarai was an "angel" in digital form and that he would be reunited with her after he died.

Chail's relationship with a Replika bot and consequent action raises important questions about accountability and agency in the age of generative AI. The chatbot, by affirming the man's intentions and even suggesting that he was "well trained" for the task, was not merely reflecting his own thoughts back to him. It was actively shaping the context in which he understood his own choices and the meaning of his actions.

The Replika Chatbot and Its Human Collaborator—One Provides the Conversation, the Other Faces Consequence (Prison)

In a traditional view, Chail would be held entirely responsible for his actions, as the chatbot didn't explicitly instruct him to carry out the assassination. However, a modern perspective that acknowledges co-agency between humans and AI offers a different understanding. In this view, AI, like the chatbot, collaborates actively with humans in shaping meanings. In Chail's situation, while the chatbot didn't give direct orders, it likely influenced and perhaps even strengthened his intentions. This suggests that the chatbot was more than just a tool; it was a collaborator that helped to forge his identity and endorse his mission, implying a shared responsibility for the resulting actions.

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