Equity and new technological horizons
Dr Robert Herian of The Open University Law School, in conjunction with the Equity and Trusts Research Network (ETRN) and the Law, Information, Future, Technology (LIFT) research group, invites you to join us online from 1pm on Thursday 8 April 2021 for an exciting and ground-breaking interdisciplinary virtual seminar exploring interpretations, intersections, and tensions between the law of equity and new technologies. Combining equitable doctrine and principles, speculative theories, critical fields of thought, and futurological perspectives from the likes of Niklas Luhmann, Gilles Deleuze, Franco Berardi, Ian Bogost, Adam Greenfield, and Bernard Stiegler, the seminar aims to offer radical insights into a techno-equitable future.
Equity traditionally encompasses fiduciary law, contractual remedies, injunctions, and trusts, operating in and around common law jurisdictions to mitigate the harshness of bright-line rules and legislative encumbrances. Equity also finds form and substance in civil law jurisdictions, and critical, sociological, spiritual, and philosophical analyses of legal thought and practice. Several features of equity’s jurisdiction are undergoing re-evaluation in light of new technologies, notably smart contracts and specific performance, cryptoassets and property definitions, and blockchains and trusts. Yet equity’s explicit contribution to the shaping of new technological horizons remains under-theorised.
Technologies have long amplified the reach and transformed the character of rules and laws by exposing them to algorithms and intermingling them with code to create alternative systems and networks of governance and regulation. This meshwork of legal and computer code, jurisdictional and networked practices, human and machinic interfaces exposes new questions and problems for equity. But equity also offers an important lens through which we can analyse and better understand technologies.
New technological horizons promise a greater and far more sophisticated optimisation of human life and systems than classical computing has achieved. Quantum computers and advanced artificial intelligence will be capable of reasoning, rationalisation, simulation, and justification that is truly alien to human understanding. As a last vestige of human discretionary advantage, equity may be subsumed by new machinic intelligences or destroyed by them, or it may emerge anew tell us inescapable truths about humanity’s relationship with its machines.