In the legal field, automation is rife. Some lawyers claim that 99% of legal code can be computerized. Legal Bots looks at different attempts to fuse the law and programming language together. To what extent can we translate the spirit of the law into the letter of computer code? With Matthias Dobbelaere-Welvaert and Max Hamsphire.
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Judicial processes surrounding speeding incidents hardly involve human activity anymore: a speed camera captures vehicles that drive too fast, registers their license plates and an automated chain of events ensures that car owners find an official ticket on their mats within three days. This does not involve any interpretation of the law. A car is either driving too fast or it is not.
However, work on rather more all-round legal bots that can interpret the law by means of artificial intelligence is also ongoing. One important development is that of so-called ’smart contracts’. The fast-growing Ethereum cryptocurrency allows transactions that take place on its block chain to be provided with legally binding, programmed clauses that enter into force without the intervention of a human – an attempt to get rid of interpretation. An interesting incidental circumstance is that non-humans like other animals, areas and buildings can also complete transactions this way, giving them (the beginning of) the status of legal personhood.
To what extent can human interpretation be ‘programmed’ out of legal procedures? When and to what extent is this desirable?
Founder and managing partner of theJurists Europe Matthias Dobbelaere-Welvaert specializes in ICT law and intellectual property. Dobbelaere-Welvaert deals chiefly with issues concerning online privacy, legal tech (legal technology), AI (artificial intelligence) and freedom of speech. He studied law at Ghent University and obtained a postgraduate degree in ICT & Media Law from the University of Leuven (ICRI).
Researcher Max Hampshire concentrates on unraveling the emergent politics of cryptographically-enabled platforms, as well as how autonomous technologies inform the structure of contemporary capitalism. Next to this, he is a sound artist (MFAAH, OSC~, Chimera Ensemble), and is the co-initiator of Noiserr, a nomadic audio-visual research group centered around noise. Hampshire holds an MA in Philosophy from the University of Amsterdam and is currently researching and working at the Institute of Network Cultures.
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