New Tech old rules
New technologies such as blockchain, smart contracts, artificial intelligence and crowdfunding are replacing traditional professions – bankers, lawyers and notaries. Right? We’ll see. Are we then just climbing (back) into our Ivory tower and wait until society requests our advice? No, we call ourselves the #koplopers (#frontrunners), and act alike. What we do? Let’s take a closer look at New Tech and the legal profession.
From hype to application
Regarding the hypes of tomorrow the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies of consultancy firm Gartner is leading; the chart shows the lifecycle of new technologies. This lifecycle shows a movement that embarks with the trigger of innovations and cumulates towards exaggerated expectations. Then technologies dive in the trough of disillusion, to recover slowly and enter the phase of applications. Some technologies take a rather long time to fulfil the lifecycle, others shoot through it more quickly. For example, crew-less airplanes are technologically possible, but are not (yet) widely adopted because of many non-technical reasons (i.e. we want a human pilot). Other techniques develop much faster, such as the 3G, 4G and soon the 5G-network.
New techniques, old rules
Our laws and rules don’t intend to obstruct new technologies, but are rather an expression of the norms and values of our society. Technologies change, but is there also a change of our social norms and values (leading to a change in our laws and rules)? To illustrate the answer to this question we will give you an example that might seem distant: war.
War is as old as humanity. The techniques that are being used have changed from – let’s say – bows and arrows to gunpowder to drones. But the norms and values applicable during warfare don’t change in the same pace. Most countries agree on the fact that it is allowed to wage war, but within the limits of certain rules: the laws of war. Part of the laws of war is the rule that prohibits the use of certain weapons, because of the superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering they cause. This old rule is the framework to determine whether new technologies in weaponry should be prohibited or not. ‘New’ technologies such as flame throwers, land mines and blinding lasers are prohibited on the basis of the old rule. We can see that techniques change over time, but the norms and values remain. Knowledge of both is paramount in when old rules meet new technology. That also applies to other areas of law.
Back to the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. When a new technique resides in the phase of exaggerated expectations, a frequently heard complain is sluggishness of the government to change the laws accordingly. But is this actually the case? Do we want a government that acts on the basis of a hype? Or should we look for the applicable norm in the law and apply this to the new technique?
We know the rules and we are always eager to learn about new techniques. We believe that most of the time there is space for new techniques in the existing rules. Sometimes we find a void in the law nonetheless. In that case we will favour for an amendment of the law. Until then we search for the limits of possibilities. We are Team New Tech.