Please join us for the latest Essex Private, Business and Technology Law Seminar Series
In this seminar, the question is whether we under-estimate (or, possibly, over-estimate) the contribution that private law can make to the governance of emerging technologies. The response to this question has two prongs.
First, we certainly should recognize that private law has an important role to play in the governance of new technologies, and there is no doubting the flexibility of the general principles and classifications of private law. Nevertheless, what is significant is private law guided by policy-orientated regulatory thinking, not private law guided by traditional doctrinal coherentist thinking.
Secondly, focusing specifically on the application of technologies for the purposes of governance (governance by technologies, whether by public or private bodies), it seems that private law is not salient, certainly not a priority, because our pressing need is to ‘constitutionalise’ this form of governance.
In sum, in the context of the governance of new technologies, private law is not salient because it is not public law; and private law coherentist thinking is not significant because it is not regulatory.
In this seminar, four clusters of questions are addressed—all relating to law’s imperfect governance.
First, what is the nature and range of discontent with law’s governance? Do our reservations relate to law’s claimed authority, its promise, its performance, the positions it take up, or its personnel? To what extent are these reservations inevitable given that law is a human enterprise that relies on rules, standards, and principles?
Secondly, to what extent do new technologies amplify or extend our discontent with law’s governance; to what extent might such technologies ease our reservations?
Thirdly, is our discontent with law’s governance reasonable? What kind of attitudes to governance would be wholly unreasonable?
Fourthly, is our ambivalence in relation to better performing technologies reasonable? Why have reservations about technologies that ‘do governance’ better than humans?
Professor Roger Brownsword, who is a graduate of the London School of Economics, has been an academic lawyer for more than 40 years. Currently, he is Professor of Law at King’s College London, where he was the founding director of TELOS (a research centre that focuses on technology, ethics, law and society), an honorary professor at the University of Sheffield, and a visiting professor at Singapore Management University. He has published more than a dozen books, including (in the area of regulation and technology) Rights, Regulation and the Technological Revolution (OUP, 2008), Regulating Technologies (Hart, 2008) (co-edited with Karen Yeung), and Law and the Technologies of the Twenty-First Century (co-authored with Morag Goodwin) (CUP, 2012); and he has more than 200 papers in edited collections and law reviews.
He is currently co-editing the Cambridge Handbook on Human Dignity (which is in press) and just starting work on co-editing the Oxford Handbook on Law, Regulation and Technology. He is the founding general editor of the leading European journal, Law, Innovation and Technology as well as being on the editorial board or committee of journals that include the Modern Law Review, the International Journal of Law and Information Technology, and the (upcoming) Journal of Law and the Biosciences.
Professor Brownsword has acted as a specialist adviser to parliamentary committees dealing with stems cells and hybrid embryos. From 2004-2010, he was a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics; and, currently, he is Chair of the Ethics and Governance Council of UK Biobank. He was a member of the Law panel for the UK RAE2008 and he is a member of the international Law panel for the national research assessment being conducted in Hong Kong in 2014.
Professor Christopher Willett For 30 years he has taught, researched, published and advised in the areas of UK, EU and global consumer and contract law; commercial law; sales law; food law; digital content law; services of general interest; financial services law; and unfair terms and practices law. He has worked at Essex since 2011, before which he taught at the Universities of De Montfort, Warwick, Brunel and Oxford Brookes.