At What Point Does Robo-Bureaucracy Become Robo-Tyranny?: New at Reason

Robot overlords coming to a government agency near you.


Dreamstime: Kirsty Pargeter

Never mind replacing factory and service industry workers: What if robots could replace bureaucrats? After all, nearly 22 million Americans are employed at all levels of government. Lots of them are involved in applying rules and making routine decisions. What if ever-smarter software could function as robo-administrative law judges, robo-comptrollers, robo-clerks, robo-magistrates, robo-deputy assistant secretaries of transportation or agriculture—in short, robo-bureaucrats? Could robot administrators powered by computer algorithms and neural networks even-handedly apply rules and make objective decisions in allocating resources? In a recent paper, "Cyberdelegation and the Administrative State," California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar considers the possibility. What could possibly go wrong?