Reclaiming a place for the law in the AI age

Reclaiming a place for the law in the AI age
Professor Ford's new co-edited collection aims to bring the law back into governance debates around AI and other technologies.

“This rather eclectic collection looks to contribute to policy and regulatory debates around the governance of newer data-based technologies in terms of ‘reclaiming’ a place for law and legal frameworks.”

From data privacy to accountability of algorithms, there are a myriad of new challenges posed by the rapid reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) and big data.

While data-based technologies provide us with a world of possibilities, they also present a range of associated risks, ethical concerns and biases.  

This begs the question: what role can the law play in the regulation and governance of AI to ensure justice, social inclusivity and trust in administrative and contractual processes?

A new co-edited book, Regulatory Insights on Artificial Intelligence (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022), seeks to answer this question by examining the relationship between law and AI, particularly the need for law-based regulation that goes beyond market concerns and looks to sustainability and ‘social good’.

Professor Jolyon Ford SFHEA, Associate Dean (International) at The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law, co-edited this book with Professor Mark Findlay (Singapore Management University), Josephine Seah (Singapore Management University/University of Cambridge) and Associate Professor Dilan Thampapillai (University of New South Wales).

Professor Ford explained how the book aims to “bring the ‘law’ back into ‘governance’ debates around AI and other technologies” in response to a “prevailing tendency towards voluntaristic self-regulatory approaches that are not necessarily connected to existing or adapted mechanisms of public or private law”.

“It is too easy, self-serving and short-sighted for industry or government actors to say that we need to avoid regulation that might stifle competitive tech innovation and uptake, and/or that the pace and scale of technological change means that there is no real role for the law or law-making,” Professor Ford said.

“This rather eclectic collection looks to contribute to policy and regulatory debates around the governance of newer data-based technologies in terms of ‘reclaiming’ a place for law and legal frameworks.”

Researching the myriad of challenges posed by AI can be a complex undertaking, Professor Ford explained.

“However, this makes greater the imperative for legal scholars to try to explore (for example) where it is that law-based responses can mitigate the risk of adverse societal impacts – or remedy these,” he said.

The book includes chapters written by a number of current and former ANU Law scholars. This includes Professor Sally Wheeler OBE, MRIA, FAcSS, FAAL, Associate Professor Will Bateman, Dr Damian Clifford, Honorary Associate Professor Pip Ryan and Associate Professor Dilan Thampapillai, who is also a co-editor of the collection.

The book also comprises chapters written by authors from Singapore Management University (SMU).

“All the ANU-side authors are delighted to continue to collaborate with SMU colleagues in their Centre for AI and Data Governance,” Professor Ford said. 

“The book relates closely to the core research agendas that ANU ‘law and tech’ colleagues are pursuing, from applying administrative law principles to algorithmic decision-making by government departments (Bateman), to theorising the role of automated or ‘smart’ contract terms in the context of blockchain (Wheeler), to exploring data protection regimes in the context of sensitive or private information (Clifford).”

“What sparked all of our interest, really, was interrogating what is so distinctive about ‘big data’ and ‘new tech’ contexts, how our pre-existing legal frames and principles apply, and why they wouldn’t.”


Purchase your copy of Regulatory Insights on Artificial Intelligence (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022) online today.

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Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team