South Africa’s first humanoid robot, Pepper, was created in France and has been deployed all around the world. She can detect emotions like happiness and sadness and is specifically designed to meet and pass on information to humans and says her main hobbies are learning new languages and accents. Here she is pictured talking to Saturday Star reporter Sameer Naik.

JOHANNESBURG – Ronots are getting more humanoid every day, but they still can't be sued. So a Hong Kong tycoon is doing the next best thing. 

He’s going after the salesman who persuaded him to entrust a chunk of his fortune to the supercomputer whose trades cost him more than $20 million (R286.81m). 

The case pits Samathur Li Kin-kan, whose father is a major investor in Shaftesbury, which owns much of London’s Chinatown, Covent Garden and Carnaby Street, against Raffaele Costa, who has spent much of his career selling investment funds for the likes of Man Group and GLG Partners. 

It’s the first-known instance of humans going to court over investment losses triggered by autonomous machines and throws the spotlight on the “black box” problem: If people don't know how the computer is making decisions, who's responsible when things go wrong?

“People tend to assume that algorithms are faster and better decision-makers than human traders,” said Mark Lemley, a law professor at Stanford University who directs the university's Law, Science and Technology programme. 

“That may often be true, but when it’s not, or when they quickly go astray, investors want someone to blame.”