How Can The Law Keep Up with New Tech? (Podcast Part II)

In part 2 of this podcast, Karim Nurani welcomes back Joshua Fairfield of Washington and Lee University School of Law. Professor Fairfield is an internationally recognized law and technology scholar, who specializes in all things digital. His current research focuses on big data privacy protection, cryptocurrencies, and the development of virtual communities to maximize people’s potentials and achievements.

In his latest book, Runaway Technology, Prof. Fairfield demonstrates how we can create the kind of laws that are better suited to dealing with the challenges and dangers posed by corporate surveillance, artificial intelligence, deep fakes, genetic modification, automation, and more.

In this podcast, we explore two major themes:

Law and Technological Change

It’s a mistake to claim that the law can’t keep up with rapidly-changing technology. Law itself is “linguistic technology”, and the key strategy is to ensure that it evolves “wisely” to stay apace of the latest developments. It’s important to look at the lessons from legal history, to see how they should apply today. In feudal times for example, serfs (peasants) couldn’t own their farmland and would lose everything when disputes arose among their overlords. Today, we’re becoming “digital serfs” since we can’t own our own data, and are subject to licenses and terms of service that are imposed by the “digital barons” who rule us.  

NFTs and Tech’s Democratizing Pedigrees

The evolution of different governmental implementations of technology legislation across the globe is of concern, especially given the worrying expansion of authoritarian nationalism worldwide. This can be countered by decentralized finance and blockchain technologies, which have strong democratizing pedigrees that don’t lend themselves easily to centralized command and control. The laws relating to NFTs will need to evolve, in order to make them practical and shovel-ready for use in everyday commerce, and that will happen.     

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