When it comes to law and technology, one could ask several questions among which – if laws will ultimately have to change to keep up with modern tech or tech will have to adapt to keep in line with the law, considering for instance that many terms and conditions on apps are agreed to by minors?
Minors agreeing to apps is another issue. Parents have an obligation to control what their minor children access. From time-to-time parents have gotten out of financial harm caused by their minor children spending money on apps, but it isn’t always a sure thing. There is a law about collecting information about children under the age of 13, but there isn’t much behind it since the children invariably check the boxes that say their parents have provided permission.
Laws constantly change to keep up with technology. Unfortunately, they often change too slowly. A good example of that would be the failure of the many governments to enact meaningful reforms related to privacy as technology has become more invasive. Habitually, in the law, we adjust the language of things we write or our approaches to conflict resolutions based on changes in technology.
However, sometimes the law does not address underlying problems and without amendments to existing laws or new laws it is difficult to resolve problems, both criminal, commercial, and civil, within the legal system.
Technology is only as good as the purpose for which we use and not necessarily for which it was intended. It’s essential to state that technology therefore, can’t be considered as a neutral tool since it all depends on how it is used.
Humans abuse tools more often than the intended designer would prefer. Like screwdrivers being used as murder weapons, the technology is not neutral because human operators are not neutral.
The most spoken about technology in recent times seems to be the Blockchain technology.
Blockchain is a decentralized, peer to peer, immutable storage network which is censor free and regulator free because of the absence of one single controlling entity.
Every transaction that is written is voted upon by a majority of nodes and changing something which was written before in the chain is computationally very difficult.
When blockchain matures to the point of being “the law”, the difference will be that “what happened when” will not take up as large a part of court hearings as today. Also, many disputes will not ever reach court because of more automatic settlements occurring before, as contracts automatically settle when parameters are breached.
You will probably see many systems of law competing for adherents, they will all have to somehow interface with the legacy system until the legacy system either innovates to compete or is abandoned in favor of better regimes.
Criminal, corporate and civil law firms will need to develop an understanding of how cryptocurrencies can be used to facilitate transfers of value worldwide, which will inevitably creep into cases of all kinds as it becomes clear that currencies like bitcoin are here to stay.
As it becomes established case law, there will also be increasing numbers of things where the incorporation of information into a blockchain becomes proof that the information existed or that something happened at that point in time.
Some countries have been much better about dealing with this technology than others as far as amending laws and/or passing new ones are concerned. El Salvador for example being the first country to legalize bitcoin as legal tender.
I think joining the tech-space with a legal background is always a plus and the inputs one can bring are countless. The first contribution that one can do is for “Smart Contracts”.
Smart Contracts are executable code that get executed upon the activation of an event in a contract.
I always encourage persons with an interest in law and technology to get an understanding of “Smart contracts” as I see a great demand for people in the near future. We will always rely on human cooperation to uphold the law.
As an illustration, if a person defaulted continuously on his rent payment for 3 months, a smart contract has the power to remotely lock the appartement.
Taking the comparison in the real-world contracts, the Terms & Conditions for a lease agreement would have been drafted by the Attorney of the landlord that exists on paper. In case of default in the payment of rents, although the clause gets invoked, the landlord would still have to serve the tenant a notice to quit, before confiscating the keys to the appartement.
With a “Smart Contract”, it is automated. Indeed, technology and law together produce a kind of creative regulation unprecedented in history, as Lawrence pointed out.
In the end, laws change over time. We see that constantly. For example, we didn’t always have cars. Then we didn’t have cars that went very fast. Now look at all the laws related to building, owning, and operating cars.