The World Economic Forum at Davos is a unique place to debut an idea. The Forum is one of the most influential and diverse gatherings of leaders globally. Yet, it can sometimes foster a type of generalized optimism that pays lip service to change and innovation without providing genuine direction or inviting action. Issue awareness is, of course, essential, but it is not enough.
Earlier this year, the MIT Computational Law Team had the honor - and the challenge - of sharing our vision with the international audience in Davos. As the MIT Computational Law emissary in Davos, I spent the time leading up to the forum with the team developing our message, which Dazza Greenwood captured in this brief interview:
As we prepared for the World Economic Forum, we felt increasingly that, to convey the spirit of computational law effectively, we needed to make it tangible and share our goals for this new interdisciplinary field. During this process, we increasingly felt a need to make the notion of computational law more tangible and share our goals for this burgeoning interdisciplinary field. Defining effective goals for a field turns out to be difficult: State them too generally, and they become vague and unattainable. Make them too narrow (or numerous), and one will miss the forest for the trees.
The MIT Computational Development Goals are our attempt to strike this balance based on dialog with broad input. We hope that they serve both as an impetus for sustainable innovation and as a catalyst for further discussion. As computational law matures, some of these initial goals may need to be recast in a different light from time to time.
The COVID-19 crisis has further emphasized the importance of these goals: as the world seeks to find solutions that address this pandemic, the law is struggling to keep up. Designing contact tracing solutions that respect privacy, evaluating invocations of force majeure and adapting large volumes of contracts, designing uniform yet flexible responses to claims, use of algorithms in responsive legislation and regulation and its impact on representative democracy and legitimacy, re-evaluating regulations on the development of vaccines and treatments, coordinating between jurisdictions globally or finding ways for courts to operate and inter-operate using reduced infrastructure and during shutdowns are just some of the areas where well designed computational legal solutions could add tremendous value.
Robert Mahari is a JD candidate at Harvard Law School where he is the president of the Harvard Law & Technology Society and editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Record. He is also a member of the MIT Computational Law Report’s advisory board. Starting in September, Robert will enter MIT Media Lab’s Program in Media Arts and Sciences under the direction of Professor Sandy Pentland.
Robert’s work is focused on assessing and designing how technology can and should affect the practice of law. He seeks to actively develop, test and deploy new computational legal solutions. In this context, he regularly organizes global interdisciplinary symposia on topics at the intersection of law and technology, including the upcoming 2020 Harvard European Legal Technology & Privacy Symposium.