In the second seminar of our QUT Global Law, Science and Technology Seminar Series, Dr Neville Rochow QC reflected on what it means to be human in a digital world.
Abstract: Questions arise constantly regarding how we, as modern humanity, should respond to what is referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The seminar will present a series of issues – ‘contemplations’ if you will – on which we as educated and hopefully well-informed humans should be reflecting to consider an imminent future that is already present in which the idea of ‘human’ may either be preserved or radically change. Such issues include ‘dignity’, ‘humanity’, ‘belief’, ‘conviction’, ‘sin’, ‘love’; whether we should accord legal ‘personhood’ to artifices that are bereft of feeling and conscience; and that are agnostic as to human feeling and conscience.
Having created corporate gods in the express image of our desires, our vanity then extends to creating computers and androids in our image; ‘tools’ that are capable of simulating and emulating our human characteristics. Yet with all of these advances, it seems our own knowledge and power over our own destinies are somehow diminished; and we have not even decided how to distinguish between humanity and its simulacra.
With warnings of an impending Superintelligence revolution that could, in time, render humanity, as we now understand it, redundant and even superfluous; and while Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft continue to act as corporate digital gods whose ubiquitous presence, constant surveillance, copious recording of our every ‘sin’ according to their commandments – meting out punishment for transgression; thus espousing the appearance of being omniscient and omnipotent – we face questions not considered by previous generations that were not ruled by algorithms.
Drawing upon recent research, Dr Rochow posed questions that help us contemplate whether we are taking our humanity and its rights sufficiently seriously in times when it is so critically important to do so.
You can watch the presentation below:
You can also watch the presentation at The QUTUBE, the official YouTube channel for Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
Dr Rochow QC graduated in 1983 from Adelaide University Law School with LLB (Hons). After completing a thesis, Evidence, Judicial Notice and Party Comment: Principles for Ascertaining Facts Which Predicate Constitutional Validity, Adelaide University awarded him the degree of LLM. Deakin University awarded him the degree of LLM in Competition Law and Policy. In March 2022, Adelaide University conferred upon him the degree of PhD for his thesis Human Dignity and Constitutional Spatial Theory: Towards an Australian Framework for the Resolution of Conflicts in Equality Rights and Religious Liberties Claims.
He has published widely and has had extensive experience as a teacher at both the Adelaide law school and in numerous professional settings, nationally and internationally. Since his admission as a practitioner in 1983, he has practised in a wide variety of areas of commercial and public law. Dr Rochow was admitted to the Bar in 1987 and was appointed QC in 2008. He conducted a national practice in all areas of commercial law concentrating on competition and consumer law and corporate law.
Between 2015 and 2017, he and his wife Penny worked as government relations representatives at the European Union and the United Kingdom Parliament as members of the European Platform on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination. While in Europe, they appeared before the English Law Commission on reform of marriage law; and Dr Rochow spoke in the EU Parliament in Brussels; in the House of Lords in Westminster, and in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Between 2017 and 2018, Dr Rochow participated in and organised numerous international legal conferences in Australia, Asia, Europe, and the United States. In 2019, upon receiving the Hans-Jürgen & Marianne Ohff Research Grant, he was invited to be a Gastwissenschaftler at the University of Mannheim law school. Dr Rochow is an adjunct Associate Professor at the Adelaide Law School. He teaches Commercial Transactions part-time. He practises at the Bar from Anthony Mason Chambers specialising in complex commercial disputes and appeals.
Dr Rochow has a research interest in the interaction of human dignity and digital technology. He loves art, music, and theatre and has eclectic tastes in each; he misses travel; and is an unreconstructed bibliophile and tsundoku recidivist. He and Penny live in Adelaide with the constant companionship of their daughter’s two Siamese cats, Frigg and Thor.
About the series
The QUT Global Law, Science and Technology Seminar Series aims to bring together national and international speakers who will explore the personal, societal and governance dimensions of solving real world problems which are influenced by, and through the interactions of science, technology and the law.
The series will host speakers who think about ‘technology’ and ‘science’ as broadly construed to refer to methods of framing or interacting with the world, and that enable the critical and imaginative questioning of the technical, science, environmental and health dimensions of law and life.
- Health Technology and Big Data: Is ethical debt inevitable?
- The Blockchain Conundrum: Humans, Community, Regulation and Chains
- Runaway Technology: Can Law Keep Up?
- Litigating Science: Climate Change and the Rocky Hill Mine case
- AI in the Wild: Sustainability in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
- Help: The Digital Transformation of Humanitarianism and the Governance of Populations
- Patient Rights and Healthcare Decision-making after COVID-19: Transformations and Future Directions
- Past, or coming, or to come. Rights, interests and posthumous parenthood
- Autonomy, Vulnerability, and Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD)
- A Scholar’s Journey – or how someone who struggles with his iPhone is the world’s most read and cited FinTech scholar
- Wills formalities in the 21st century – Promoting testamentary intention in the face of societal change and advancements in technology