Thursday, 15 March 2012

What's this?

The title of this blog, Legal Futurology, contains a certain degree of deliberate ambiguity. You, Dear Reader, may wonder, what kind of a future we are talking about and what the law has to do it. At this point we don't expect we will be writing about futures (the financial instruments) or about future developments in the law in general, say, regarding the resolution of the financial crisis or the next EU treaty or planned directive this or statute that or what the court will (or should) decide in Rubber v. Glue or whatever. While we cannot promise to avoid such topics altogether (classic evasive move there), what we have in mind are some very specific aspects of the future and the law.

The future we are referring to is that of the William Gibson quotation 'The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.' It is also that of Richard Susskind's book Future of Law*. And since at least one of us is a board-certified Legal Realist, there might be the odd dash of future in the sense of Prediction Theory thrown in as well.

More concretely, we both are researchers at the University of Helsinki working at the intersection of law and artificial intelligence. Our perspectives are quite different, as one of us (Anniina) studies AI as the object of legal regulation, whereas the other (Anna) studies AI as a tool to facilitate legal information retrieval or even do legal reasoning by itself. These complementary perspectives should open up for a broader range of topics than either one of us could do by herself. We are also planning to take advantage of this in more traditional fora through co-authored publications (stay tuned!).

Speaking of publications, we also see this blog as an opportunity to develop our research ideas in a manner better suited for a field in which the pace of technical development is so overwhelming that traditional publication-based academic discussion just doesn't cut it, especially if the ideas are slated for publication in a monograph x years from now rather than as a standalone article. We will of course also be writing about our own articles as well as interesting stuff we have read elsewhere. The style of the posts would probably not get past peer review (and anyway one can't just print out all one's blog posts and call it a dissertation, right?) but some of texts published here are bound to end up in our more serious publications more or less verbatim. To steal terminology from the software industry, we see this blog as a platform for rapid prototyping or Agile Development of our research ideas, which of course is very much in vogue these days. If you agree with what we write, we don't mind if you show it, and if you vehemently disagree with us, we would appreciate your (civil) comments even more.

Or, as put by the Agile Development guru Benjamin Cardozo:

'I sometimes think that we worry ourselves overmuch about the enduring consequences of our errors. They may work a little confusion for a time. In the end, they will be modified or corrected or their teachings ignored. The future takes care of such things. In the endless process of testing and retesting, there is a constant rejection of the dross, and a constant retention of whatever is pure and sound and fine.'#

Share and enjoy,

Anna & Anniina

* OUP 1996. You should really read his The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services (OUP 2008) instead, but we couldn't possibly reuse that as a title for the blog, now could we?

# The Nature of the Judicial Process (Yale University Press 1921), p. 179

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