Bass, Berry & Sims attorney David Wilson authored an article for the Virginia Journal of Law & Technology based on his extensive research related to the various attempts throughout history to govern nonhumans and thus subject them to the constraints of law. Through examples that span from the ancient practice of putting animals and objects on trial to the modern remedy of algorithmic disgorgement, David draws upon a broad range of historical and contemporary legal sources to provide a thorough analysis of the legal treatment of nonhuman entities.

In this article, David reviews the literature of culpability and rights theory as it relates to assigning blame to moral agents and examines the historical background for holding animals and inanimate objects legally accountable for their actions and considers the reasons for this impulse. The article further discusses recent notions of personhood, culpability and rights being applied to artificial intelligence (AI); modern attempts to apply the retributivist framework to AI; and then discusses alternative methodologies for AI governance. To conclude, he offers some final observations and policy considerations.

The full article, "Governing "Things": Artificial Intelligence, Animals and Other Nonhumans Before the Law," was published in the 27th Volume of the Virginia Journal of Law & Technology and is available online. Full citation: David W. Wilson, Governing "Things": Artificial Intelligence, Animals and Other Nonhumans Before the Law, 27 Va. J.L. & Tech. 1 (2024)

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