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Runaway Technology: Can Law Keep up?

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In this first seminar of our QUT Global Law, Science and Technology Seminar Series, we will hear from Professor Joshua Fairfield, an internationally recognised law and technology scholar specialising in digital property, electronic contract, big data privacy, and virtual communities. Professor Fairfield will discuss his upcoming book entitled “Runaway Technology: Can Law Keep Up?”

Abstract: Is technology doomed to always be regulated by out-of-date rules? Or worse, is the world doomed to become lawless, as technology leaves dusty law codes behind?

In an era of rampant corporate surveillance, artificial intelligence, deep fakes, genetic modification, automation, and more, law often seems to take a back seat to rampant technological change. To listen to Silicon Valley barons, there’s nothing any of us can do about it. This book calls their bluff. It provides a fresh look at law, at what it actually is, how it works, and how we can create the kind of laws that help humans thrive in the face of technological change. It shows that law can keep up with technology because law is a kind of technology — a social technology built by humans out of cooperative fictions like firms, nations, and money. However, to secure the benefits of changing technology for all of us, we need a new kind of law, one that reflects our evolving understanding of how humans use language to cooperate.

Language is humans’ superpower. Humans cooperate at mass scale because of a shared ability to create cooperative fictions, things like money, words, Wednesday, and of course laws. Laws are the refined end of the human language of cooperation, the language we use when we talk about how to live together. We have to upgrade our language so that we can cooperate to survive the challenges of the future, from online polarisation and radicalisation to the rise of hybrid nation-state and corporate surveillance regimes, from the current worldwide crisis over facts, to the rise of authoritarian nationalist states. This book shows how to start the upgrade.

Seminar details

Date: Tuesday, 21 July 2020
Time: 9.00am – 10.30am (AEST)
Venue: Online via Zoom
RSVP: Please register online if you would like to attend

Guest presenter

Professor Joshua FairfieldProfessor Joshua Fairfield (William Donald Bain Family Professor of Law) is an internationally recognized law and technology scholar, specialising in digital property, electronic contract, big data privacy, and virtual communities. He has written on the law and regulation of e-commerce and online contracts and on the application of standard economic models to virtual environments.

Professor Fairfield’s current research focuses on big data privacy models and the next generation of legal applications for cryptocurrencies.

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.

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