IFCLA Conference Feedback

June 14, 2016

The IFCLA Conference at the IET in London last Thursday and Friday was provocative in the sense that it provoked lots of debate.

It was good to see a number of eminent Techlaw presenters acknowledging that there are a range of issues where they don’t yet know the answers. The topics included robolaw, FinTech regulation, the use of blockchain technology, and the use of IT in healthcare. I emphasize that the panelists don’t {i}yet{/i} know the know the answers.

These are all areas where technology, the regulatory environment and the law in general are struggling to grapple with the pace of change. The IFCLA Conference was a great opportunity to stand back and assess these issues in the urbane and somewhat stately environment of the Institute of Engineering and Technology.

Our keynote speakers on both days set the scene for much of the debate. On Thursday, Prof Richard Susskind – the SCL President – focused on the increasing impact of artificial intelligence and its increasing pace of change. On Friday, Professor Mischa Dohler from King’s College took up the theme of AI amongst others. His presentation encapsulated many of the issues discussed during the conference. It was a little frightening – but well worth Tech lawyers taking the time to think about the issues raised by Mischa. He has already provided a {resume of his presentation on the SCL website: http://www.scl.org/site.aspx?i=ed47924}.

Take a look and ponder over some of the tough issues that as lawyers we need to grapple with. Here are just three.

{i}{b}Data Privacy{/i}{/b}: The burning question of this century is clearly on how to achieve privacy without jeopardising utility; remember that, in a world with perfect privacy, Google search would be largely meaningless. And the really hard questions around privacy will emerge with the quickly growing IoT: these devices do not have a ‘user’ interface (screen, keyboard); how do we properly interact with them to control them or switch them off?

{i}{b}Regulatory Environment{/i}{/b}: Technology moves relatively fast – mainly because the underlying principles around innovation have, as Mischa puts it, been, well, innovated. In that spirit, we may want to explore how to innovate regulatory bodies so that they can stay head-to-head if not ahead of the technology game rather than catching up.

{i}{b}Tech Procurement{/i}{/b}: Quick tech advances are meaningless if they struggle to be deployed. Smart technologies are rarely the cheapest and thus struggle with large procurement opportunities. We urgently need a stronger regulatory framework supporting smart tech over tech which just about meets the requirements.

Any thoughts?

Mischa will continue the debate on these issues – and others – at the {SCL Techlaw Futures Conference: http://www.scl.org/site.aspx?i=ev46551} in central London on 10th November. Keep an eye on the SCL website for further details.

{b}Roger Bickerstaff is Vice-President of IFCLA, an SCL Trustee and a Partner at Bird & Bird