Creeping Up and Racing Past

June 8, 2014

One of the slightly surprising things about the Google Spain judgment is that the right to be forgotten went from a concept to a sort of reality in seconds. One moment we were debating about the true meaning of the idea embodied in the EU DP reform package, which was progressing at the speed of chained-up molasses, and the next it was a real and cavorting among the headlines of the mainstream media. It was transformation from frog to prince – and, a bit like that fairy story, there are issues about a divorce between reality and the good story.

The other sprint from back-marker to front-runner comes from the Internet of Things. It does not seem long since I was running articles with technical explanations of what it meant – in fact it is not long ago. Now we don’t even need it spelt out in full IoT is enough and the big debates are not about its importance and impact but about its limits, and whether it has any.

Drones? It is less than a year since these seemed to me like an issue for futurologists except in the military context. I may have been half asleep to think like that, more likely I blinked and they are edging into the mainstream.

All of these issues and more are to be covered in the forthcoming event, {SCL Technology Law Futures Forum:} (Thursday 26 and Friday 27 June 2014, London) which SCL is co-organising with the Network of Excellence in Internet Science. If some of the issues covered in the programme have gone from future to present in the time it has taken for the event to mature, we can reasonably expect that most of the rest will be mainstream soon. As the introduction to that event observes, ‘the distant future will stand firmly in the foreground very soon. Now is the time to engage with exciting future technologies to equip yourself to cope with rapid advances in technology and the law that follows in its wake’.

I confess to a child-like glee when talking about robots – which feature on both days of the Forum. Is it possible not to be charmed by the {new generation of robots:}? The tricky thing is to leave aside the charm, and fantasies about smiling robot assassins, and start to ask hard questions about the role of robots in real, real life – the step beyond, where speculation and application meet. I look forward to getting that sort of perspective when I attend the Forum. I am told that it will give me ‘the chance to interact with thought leaders who are already engaged with a range of issues affecting law and technology’. I have ‘interacted’ without apparent effect before now (dance teachers spring to mind) but I am hoping that you will see a new level of perception in these blog posts following the Forum.

At least the Forum may help me to cope with the next wave of technology that leaves most people beached with their trusty surfboard all at sea. In a week that sees computers pass the Turing test, I wonder how long it will be before the SCL Forum is partly presented by robots?