Jusletter IT

Dear readers

Artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles – the world as we know it is changing at a breakneck pace. This does not only have an impact on society, but also challenges the legal system. In this issue, experts are discussing different legal fields that are affected by the implementation of new technologies. That law struggles to keep pace with technological change is an often-heard complaint in this context, as is the problem that the intellectual silos which the university system builds around subjects prevent the type of interdisciplinary exchange that is needed to address the challenges of the future. These can only be mastered if we change radically not only the structures of academic knowledge production and dissemination, but also those of legal education. The lawyers of the future will need different skillsets to serve the needs of industry, government and civil society. Jusletter IT has always explored new grounds in digital knowledge dissemination, introduced and tested new formats and structures at overcoming the limitations of the traditional print media. The IRIS conference has always been one of the rare events that foster and encourage this type of interdisciplinary cross-fertilisation, and also in this edition, some of the papers were first presented at, and received feedback from, the IRIS conference. But as important as interdisciplinary research is intergenerational exchange, to ensure that legal responses are in lock-step with technological development, and the lawyers of the future are equipped with the research skills to understand technological challenges in their social, economic and political context. In education, slowly but surely we find new formats such as legal hackathons and digital design competitions enter the law school curriculum, in addition to the more familiar mooting competitions. One experience that we made with these events at Edinburgh was also that teaching will often become much more bi-directional and rewarding as a result – our students, grown up as digital natives, can make connections and see opportunities that will surprise even (especially) the most seasoned academic researcher. To allow legal research to keep pace with technological change, teaming up specialists across disciplines is therefore only the beginning. It was therefore a particularly welcomed opportunity in editing this edition to also approach early career researchers and doctoral students, or to team up students from the Robotics LLM course at the University of Edinburgh with more experienced mentors. Together with the approach Anne Helms and I took to editorial feedback and peer review, this ensured that all contributions are as rigorous and authoritative as our readers can expect, while benefiting from original and unique insights, building research capacity and helping to shape the digital agenda. 

Jonathan Sinclair and Burkhard Schafer look at autonomous vehicles from a liability and insurance point of view. The authors describe the UK’s way of dealing with these new technologies after describing a scenario that sounds like science fiction, but has become possible with the advent of automated vehicles. 

Another perspective is brought by Giuseppe Contissa, Francesca Lagioia and Giovanni Sartor, who discuss the ethical dilemmas that occur when autonomous vehicles face an unavoidable accident. Who should decide the path a car chooses: the programmer, the driver or the car itself? 

Yet another legal field that is affected by autonomous vehicles is data protection. Maria Cristina Gaeta takes up on the storage and processing of personal information under consideration of the General Data Protection Regulation.

Computer codes supersede lawyers when it comes to setting up contracts. Artificial intelligence makes smart contracts possible. Gabriel Olivier Benjamin Jaccard distinguishes smart contracts from blockchain and crypto-property and gives a legal analysis of smart contracts under Swiss law.

What regulations are necessary when speaking about robots? How can safety and security as well as data protection be secured? Erica Palmerini shows up different approaches of regulating robotics and highlights the EU Resolution with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics. 

Should a robot be considered as a person? Can a society function in the future without any form of legal personality for autonomous artificially intelligent entities? Robert van den Hoven van Genderen advises that certain forms of acting by robots may be conceivable to obtain a certain form of legal personality to carry out their tasks. 

Burkhard Schafer and Erica Fraser discuss yet another point of view on robots. They give an overview on the legal issues that have to be faced when AI and robots start to create inventions and explain IP ownership in this context. 

When artificial intelligences start to interact with human beings, safety is one of the biggest concerns. Yueh-Hsuan Weng explains why «Social System Design» is indispensable when deciding what kind of ethics, policy and law can be applied into autonomous robots. 

The positions of power between human beings and their technologies are inverting. Hin-Yan Liu and Karolina Zawieska examine how this shift of power will impinge on human rights.

I wish you a fascinating reading! The next issue of Jusletter IT will be published on 22 February 2018 and will contain the IRIS2018 conference proceedings.

Burkhard Schafer
Prof., LLM.
The University of Edinburgh

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