Mark O’Conor, the SCL Chair, reflects on a successful SCL Conference, held on 8 June, extols the virtues of keeping up to date with trends and technology, and looks forward to the Back to Basics Technology Conference in September
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 thinking.
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.