The vision of Social Physics is technically within grasp but the immense benefits available can not be accessed until legal obstacles have been removed. Law and regulation will have to be modernized for the new world of big data, advanced artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.
Articulate, senior-level recommendations to refactor traditional law and policy into algorithmic rules are not new. The observation that code is law and law is code is becoming cliche. It is possible to build technical deployments of computational rules, automated transactions, autonomous software agents and data-driven networks, markets and other cross-boundary systems. Deploying computational rules in private applications that technically work among people who voluntarily choose to use them is a first step toward deploying computational public law.
MIT/law aims to develop working implementations of computational public law in ways that can objectively meet or exceed verifiable success metrics. The intention is to identify and valid criteria in partnership with key stakeholders who legislatively enact statutes, administratively promulgate regulations, judicially adjudicate cases and enforceably execute legal instruments. To successfully achieve these goals, it is important to surface each key requirement and constraint that must be addressed in order to reform the law for a digital age.
The task now is to reformat legislative data, refactor legal code and republish the law as a public digital service. Deeper economic, jurisprudential and socio-political dimensions of the Algorithmic Law project will need to be addressed over longer arcs or time primarily by other stakeholders. In any event, the substantive content of law can not be significantly adapted for the future until open, structured data standards are adopted as the common containers of law.
My friend, Brenden Maher has expounded on "Dynamic Emergent Assets" as an important aspect of the imminent future. I recall noting Brenden had an uncanny good judgement and perception of how the future would unfold when was a Masters student at the Media Lab nearly twenty years ago. With each breakthrough in AI, the Blockchain and other fast evolving autonomous commercial systems the day of Dynamic Emergent Assets hastens forward.
The law exists only as applied in context to facts and the world is quickly churning very different streams of contextual scenarios and factual situations. No matter how wise the rules may be, expressing law solely in paper form would be unworkable and unacceptable to meet the demands of the current era. And yet, the gap between what paper provides and what the modern-day requires is very much smaller than the gap between the current standards of official legal publishing and what is required of the law to provide for the fast emerging age of autonomous adaptive global systems. The law must catch up. Now.
The following rough roadmap depicts the current approach to this project:
Phase 1: Establish Workable Foundations for Computable Law
* Examine existing examples of law as computable data, including through legal markup and through incorporation by reference of technical standards into law;
* Extrapolate scenarios demonstrating public law as algorithms that can be defined, debated and decided as part of open, public and democratic processes;
* Define one or more opportunities to prototype, test and evaluate specific computational law use cases in relevant business, legal and socio-technical contexts.
Phase 2: Iteratively Prototype Public Law and Regulation as Computational Data and Algorithmic Expressions
Phase 3: Postulate and Propose Dynamic, Emergent Laws, Legal Entities, Legal Instruments, Legal Relationships, Legal Transactions and Legal Systems.