Speaker: Dr Shawn Harmon # Law School, University of Edinburgh
1st Dec 2014
15:30 - 17:00
Conference Room, David Hume Tower
Existing social and legal systems aimed at promoting human wellbeing and prosperity face significant and multi-faceted challenges. Some come from the natural world and some from humankind itself. Of the latter, some come from the way we treat each other, some from the way we interact with our environment, and some come from the way we seek to shape our future. Many of these implicate the law. Indeed, never have we demanded so much from our legal and regulatory frameworks and those who operate them, and never have they faced so many pressures and variables. Unsurprisingly, this uncertainty is contributed to technology. For example, new and emerging technologies in the nano, bio, and informational fields are converging toward a 'New Renaissance', or a 'Fourth Wave', which is often claimed to be destabilising social and legal norms. Importantly, society has not always been prepared or adequately equipped to confront concerns and possibilities around technologies in an early, explicit, or effective manner. Indeed, some of the most important and ubiquitous technological innovations of the modern era were 'rolled out' with very little consideration on the part of stakeholders of the profound social and legal impacts they might have. This talk engages with this technology-driven uncertainty, querying how we might better regulate in the emerging socio-technological setting, which is characterised by promise and consternation, fluidity and pace, fragmentation and complexity. In particular, it considers the concept and role of 'foresighting', exploring the possibilities for foresighting in the legal setting. Critically, this talk, and indeed the act of legal foresighting, is concerned with law in society, and with making the law more effective in its operation and in its relationship with the object of its attention - dynamic, complex and uncertain science.
G. Laurie, S. Harmon, F. Arzuaga, "Foresighting Futures: Law, New Technologies, and the Challenges of Regulating for Uncertainty" (2012) 4(1) Law, Innovation & Technology 1-33.