Publication Date

Fall 2016


Computers with communicative artificial intelligence (AI) are pushing First Amendment theory and doctrine in profound and novel ways. They are becoming increasingly self-directed and corporal in ways that may one day make it difficult to call the communication ours versus theirs. This, in turn, invites questions about whether the First Amendment ever will (or ever should) cover AI speech or speakers even absent a locatable and accountable human creator. In this Article, we explain why current free speech theory and doctrine pose surprisingly few barriers to this counterintuitive result; their elasticity suggests that speaker humanness no longer may be a logically essential part of the First Amendment calculus. We further observe, however, that free speech theory and doctrine provide a basis for regulating, as well as protecting, the speech of nonhuman speakers to serve the interests of their human listeners should strong AI ever evolve to this point. Finally, we note that the futurist implications we describe are possible, but not inevitable. Moreover, contemplating these outcomes for AI speech may inspire rethinking of the free speech theory and doctrine that make them plausible.