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Samizdata quote of the day – the Fusion of Technology and Law

But this is not all that the Energy Bill 2023 does, and here we come to a fresher development in the relationship between law and the state. Importantly, Brownsword has recently been suggesting that we are rapidly advancing into the next iteration of law – Law 3.0 – in which law becomes essentially self-executing through technology and, indeed, the very exercise of subjecting human conduct to rules becomes subsumed by technological management. Here, the creation of rules itself will become seen as archaic, with technology providing us with better – more efficient, more rational, more effective – forms of justice than those available to the flawed system of law which we currently respect. The end result (the apotheosis of Law 3.0, as it were), will be the merging of technology with law, such that the requirement for rules to exist will disappear and human conduct will be more or less entirely managed by technology.

David McGrogan

20 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – the Fusion of Technology and Law

  • Bell Curve

    That article should terrify anyone who reads it 🙁

  • GandleFish

    This was what ‘a clockwork orange’ was all about, not having a choice about being good or bad.

  • bobby b

    No more laws – just input a description of an event into one of the AI models and let it assign guilt and penalty.

    Think of the savings!

  • Kirk

    There’s an encapsulated worldview in that piece of regulation that will fail utterly in the final analysis.

    The concept of law itself fails, when you get down to it. The basic premise is that law ought to anticipate ever single situation, but as we have all experienced over the course of our lives, you can’t do it. You have to apply common sense. In every single case… While some things can maintain consistency across nearly every encountered situation, others are a lot less likely to cover all situations.

    Consider the golf cart vignette used in the author’s example: You have a golf course club that purchases golf carts, but which doesn’t want them on the greens, so they write a rule saying “no golf carts to be driven on the greens”. There’s your law; the new thing is that they think to obviate the need for such a law by technologic means stopping the golf carts from being driven on the greens in the first place… Hey! Presto!! No need for a law! Aren’t we smart!

    Difficulty here is that there are cases where the golf carts might need to be driven on the greens; in order to evacuate an injured golfer, or to fight fires or some such unforeseeable contingency. You have them locked out, you’re screwed: You cannot rescue the injured golfer or you cannot fight the fire. What then is the value of that law?

    One idea of law is that you’re going to have to presuppose and anticipate each and every contingency, spelling out what is permissible and what is not. This is an impossible standard to meet, and where the rules-lawyers get themselves involved finding ever-evolving excuses and loopholes. Ones you cannot hope to plug in advance. You’re almost better off not having “law” in the first place, and just setting out general principles to be applied case-by-case. Instead of “murder is illegal”, it would be “don’t kill unless you have to”, subject to review by your peers.

    The essential problem with rule-frameworks and laws is that they can’t be made to be perfect, and once you set them down as immutable, then certain sorts of people immediately set about figuring out ways around the rules. It’s almost a zen-like thing: The truly law-abiding man doesn’t follow the law itself, he follows the spirit of the law, and ignores the letter of it.

    You lock yourself down with these non-laws that they’re proposing, and you’re inevitably going to run into situations you didn’t think of, and which you’re not going to have built into the system of “guardrails” because, in the end, you ain’t God and you don’t have God’s supposed omniscience to call on.

    Rule here? Don’t play God. You ain’t no diety.

  • William H. Stoddard

    I think that people have been dreaming of that since Auguste Comte wrote of the three ages: the theological (government by divine commands), the metaphysical (governed by human ideas—which I believe included law), and the positive (governed by scientific authorities on a basis of empirical fact alone).

  • Kirk

    I remember reading that and wondering if Comte had ever encountered scientific “authority” in any but the most casual way…

    Ya look at it, and of the three? I’d almost prefer theological. The problem with “positive”, as he put it, is that it is still just as flawed as metaphysical, in that the “science” is being done by highly flawed humans.

    I mean, “empirical fact”? How many times have those changed? Medical science killed my grandfather early through treating his stomach ulcers with a high-fat diet to “soothe his stomach”; he wound up with atherosclerosis from all the dairy they had my grandmother feeding him, which led to neural insufficiency due to his arteries being clogged. All of that on “the best medical advice” from highly qualified gastric specialists. A decade-plus later, they figured out that ulcers like his were caused by helicobacter pylori, treated it with antibiotics, and Hey! Presto!!, no more ulcers.

    So much for reliance on ever-changing science, eh? Wonder what new thing will change our understandings tomorrow?

    I’m not a huge fan of any of these systems of belief, to be honest. I’m a pragmatist; if it works, it works… And, you likely need to work out a new solution for each new situation, if you want it all to actually, y’know… Work. ‘Cos, every situation is different. Some cats are actually black in the night, some few glow in the dark, now that science has gotten ahold of them. What was true under past conditions might not be true under today’s… Run the experiment: If things work out differently, fine, we can assume things have changed. If not? Well, ya have precedent to go back to.

    Although, experience has taught me to pay rather stricter attention to Chesterton’s Fence than not.

  • DiscoveredJoys

    And yet… the first time the electricity is turned off remotely and an asthmatic child’s nebuliser doesn’t work, or a COPD sufferer’s oxygen concentrator doesn’t work, or the 999 service is unavailable because of lack of mains power, then the whole ‘remote control’ idea will be questioned.
    It’s one thing for the power to go because of a fault, it’s something else when the power goes intentionally.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    You would still need someone to enforce the Law! The future will belong to Judge Dredd!

  • Carnivorous Bookworm

    …then the whole ‘remote control’ idea will be questioned.

    Did you sleep through 2020-2022? Nothing will change no matter who dies or how many. Complain & your social credit score will prevent you from visiting the supermarket to get your weekly ration of bugs.

  • Stonyground

    It isn’t just that the empirical facts change as scientist find new information. If the empirical facts don’t suit the political agenda you have to fire the scientists and hire some other scientists who have the empirical facts that you require.

  • Auto-totalitarianism. Lovely.

    Maybe the original saboteurs were right.

  • jgh

    Well, they have a point. I used to argue that painting lines on roads were useless to impose restrictions, you had to do physical engineering work to enforce the restriction.

  • Kirk

    jgh said:

    Well, they have a point. I used to argue that painting lines on roads were useless to impose restrictions, you had to do physical engineering work to enforce the restriction.

    And, as the Dutch have proven by experiment, removing all traffic signs and safety measures actually slows drivers down and makes them more cautious…

    There’s really only one place you can “install controls”, and that’s inside the minds of the human beings involved. All the traffic laws and road-design measures won’t work worth crap if the drivers simply don’t care to follow them in the first place. Ever seen the results of new traffic circles in a region where they’ve never been customary? How many times the idiots go flying through the centers at high speeds, despite copious warning signs and other measures?

    Lesson there, to be had.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Civilization only really arises from within the participant. You cannot effectively impose such a thing, ever. Withdraw the controls, and you lose it all; only a truly civilized man recreates civilization within himself every day and then demonstrates it with every action he takes and every interaction he has with others.

    Sad, but true. Most of the reasons we have to have such comprehensive and all-devouring petty little rules and regulations stem from people who were never properly inculcated with the values and mores of civilization in the first place. If everyone was mindful of the obligations not to litter and trash the local city parks, for example? You’d be able to do away with pages of local ordinances and their enforcers…

  • Barbarus

    Terrifying indeed. The march of restrictions will of course turn into a thundering charge. For example, the EU is already working on requirements for cars to have governors that will read the road signs and refuse to exceed the speed limit. People will start disconnecting them – whereupon there will be automated barriers placed at the end of every street that refuse to open if they don’t get a satisfactory self-test response from the governor. Someone will build himself an un-managed gadget, whereupon his smart meter will note that the power draw in that home exceeds the current total for the smart devices reporting to it; as a short term measure the power will be turned off until tests show the extra load has been disconnected. Subsequently, any attempts at purchasing tools or materials by members of that household and extended family will be blocked from using the Central Bank Digital Currency, and every attempt by those people to view any form of entertainment will be preceded by a re-education video segment that requires the viewer to acknowledge (repeatedly and in a suitably humiliating way) the importance of net zero etc..

    Two large groups will of course not be so restricted: Important People in their limousines speeding down the cleared central lanes of the roads, and techno-criminals who devote their time to updating the tools that keep them ahead of the automated compliance systems.

  • Paul Marks.

    Technocracy – Henri Saint-Simon, Francis “New Atlantis” (yes all the way back to 1610) Bacon, and all the rest right up to Klaus Schwab and Bill Gates, would be delighted.

    And do not let any Member of Parliament tell you that they did not know what they were voting for in the “Energy Bill” – they were warned (just as they were warned in 2010 – in relation to the Equality Act, which enshrined “Woke” doctrine into law) and they voted for it anyway – my own Member of Parliament was one of the people who warned them.

    So I can not blame officials and “experts” (although they wrote the Bill) – the Members of Parliament who voted for this measure knew what they were doing, they knew they were doing a very dad thing, and they made a choice to do it anyway.

    They are human beings, they have free will, they made a choice to behave very badly.

    I will end on a personal note – as I am “in the trade” of politics myself, although only at a local level. When everyone is voting for a bad thing it becomes a sort of ritual – one thinks “if I speak and vote against this, I will just be shouted down and then punished – and I will have achieved nothing”, but as soon as someone else speaks against a bad measure the position changes, one then has a purpose – “I can not let this person stand alone, I must stand with them – in order to help them, in order to make it a bit less likely that they will be punished”.

    Then one has a real sense of shame if one has NOT stood up to defend the first dissenter.

    I hope at least some of the Members of Parliament who voted for this measure, after having been warned of what it contains, are ashamed of their conduct – they certainly should be ashamed.

  • Alex

    The other day at work I had an interesting insight into the way some others think about this issue. I was holding a meeting about security and said something along the lines of “We should put in place a policy” and my colleague’s response was “We can’t, we cannot enforce it”. What he meant is that because he couldn’t enforce the restriction with technical measures he didn’t believe it could be done at all. The idea of a policy being something people followed through diligence, self-restraint, discipline, was seemingly alien to him. Only a techncial measure forcing individuals to do what they were told would be effective. It was a bit of a chilling moment for me, I realized this is how many younger people in the UK think – and they don’t dislike it, they embrace it and want Big Brother to force them to do what Big Brother thinks best.

  • Paul Marks.

    Alex – as Ronald Reagan used to say “liberty is never more than one generation away from being destroyed” – meaning that (contrary to Hume and Hayek) liberty does not “emerge” or “evolve”, it is NOT the “product of human action, but not of human design” – liberty depends on people understanding it and working to gain it or preserve it, and the young (and not so young now) are being taught to hate liberty.

    People are being taught that liberty is evil – that it is “Climate Change Denialism” and “Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Transphobia…” (and so on).

    The idea of free discussion and the right to dissent is denounced.

    whether one is dealing with Frankfurt School Marxism or with older doctrines such as the “New Atlantis” Technocracy of Francis Bacon – liberty, self control (the ability to individually choose to do what is right and to resist the passions – the passion to do what is wrong) and independence of mind, is what they hate.

  • Colli

    It is interesting to see that support for Javier Milei in Argentina is greater in younger cohorts according to a poll from Analogías on September 5th.
    Apparently 40.6% of 16-29 year olds support Milei as opposed to only 13.1% of those older than 60.
    Unfortunately, I am not seeing this in my similar age cohort in the USA.

  • bobby b

    “Unfortunately, I am not seeing this in my similar age cohort in the USA.”

    I don’t know about this. I keep seeing that the most conservative cohort in the US right now is males under 30.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    All Utopias should be contextualized. Confucius eulogized a powerful government because he lived in a time of many competing states and governments, and suffered from it, and so thought that the opposite of this arrangement must be better- so he wanted one powerful government. Moore’s Utopia was the opposite of his world, and it had no classes, and property was shared by all. Moore didn’t like feudalism, so he imagined the opposite must be paradise. I imagine Bacon’s society was anti-science, so Bacon eulogized science.