Seminar Cybernetic Personhood in Law, Cinema and Politics

Leiden Seminar in Law, Literature, Rhetoric,

Fall Semester 2015.

“Cybernetic Personhood in Law, Cinema and Politics”

This term’s seminar focuses on a new type of actor that is playing a growing role in the political and military conflicts of our contemporary world: namely, machines operated by algorithms – or software – that are programmed to make independent decisions and to act on those decisions. The emergence and increasing prominence of machines that can make semi-autonomous decisions pose problems for international, military and human rights law. It can be difficult to know whom to hold accountable when innocent civilians are killed by drones, in situations where it is unclear whether the decision to strike was made by a person, a machine, or some hybrid of the two. It may even be an open question whether key legal concepts of accountability, liability, and responsibility, and the moral and legal framework to which they belong, can still be used in situations when warfare or security operations is partly automated. In particular the so-called ‘signature strikes’ performed by drones, in which computerized data analytics are used to reveal and assassinate potentially dangerous individuals, have prompted a series of legal, moral and political debates, which are politically urgent and theoretically complex.


The seminar is free and open to all. To obtain the readings please email Yasco Horsman (, Frans-Willem Korsten ( or Tessa de Zeeuw (



Tuesday October 27nd, 15 – 17:00

Tuesday November 17th, 15-17:00

Tuesday December 1st, 15-17:00


Venue: HUIZINGA 27 (Doelensteeg 16), Leiden.


For more info see Leiden Seminar in Law

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