A Glimpse of the Future and Back to Basics

June 14, 2017

In retrospect, the fact that our Annual Conference coincided with a snap General Election seems fitting.

Although we did not know it at the time, the voters in the polling booths were about to disrupt the underlying assumptions of politics as thoroughly as technology threatens to upend, not only legal practice, but some underlying fundamentals of the law itself.

A real life case study from Dr Andrea Matwyshyn’s Keynote on the Internet of Bodies nicely illustrates the point. She recounted the tale of a Belgian man given a chip implant to help with his severe OCD. Unfortunately the side-effects were equally severe: a rampant increase in his libido. This caused marital problems, leading his wife to request that the researchers fix the problem. The husband though showed no desire to cooperate!

So Dr Matwyshyn posed a number of questions:
What can the University do to fix a problem with treatment that the patient
rejects? Does he have capacity to unilaterally decide? And what would the courts
say if his wife applied for power of attorney? All questions to which we cannot
pretend to have an answer but which stretch the boundaries of our current legal

But the moral of this modern-day fable is
that unintended consequences are one of life’s universals. Just as Theresa
May’s decision has led to unexpected political turmoil, technology will
continually throw up novel situations that could not have been foreseen.

What we can do though, like those who
attended the Conference, is keep a watch on the trends, keep asking the
questions and keep up with the technology so we can at least react rationally
when the extraordinary occurs. It was truly gratifying to see so many new faces
in attendance, along with many stalwarts, and even more so to see the flow of
questions on Glisser that really did challenge the panellists. As ever the
IET was an excellent venue with a real buzz among the 150+ delegates.

So I hope that you will try and join us for
our next big event, the Back to Basics Technology Day on 19 September which promises to match the Annual Conference for the quality of the
contributors and practical application of knowledge. Whether you have your own
tech questions or just need a refresher you will be able to speak to those in
the know. The purpose of this event is an overdue focus on the technology
itself; how stuff works!  As a result we will all be better prepared for
whatever the future holds.