Monday, January 7, 2008

Technology's impact on our laws

With the lightning-speed development of technology, I wonder, how fast do our laws keep up with the changes.

Boiling everything down to the basics, what we’ve learned in our Introduction to Law lectures, laws are meant to protect the people living collectively in society; this reminds me of the “social contract”. One problem: our social contract seems to be lagging our social development and thus no longer offers either the protection or coherence necessary, as the case may be.
What should we do? The magic question. For laws to be effective, they must be “stable”; for laws to protect, they must be flexible and adaptable to our social realities. We must determine how much stability can we sacrifice for the sake of protection or how much protection can we forgoe for the sake of stability?

For example, there's another Facebook issue. Two youngsters charged with murder, their identity legally kept anonymous pursuant to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, but they have been perfectly identified on Facebook. Read Howard Elliott's post titled: "Facebook poses dilemma" at I am of the opinion that any legal incoherence must be rectified. But what do we do in a year, two years or three years down the road, when new online trends emerge? Do we go back to the drawing board and adopt new laws? Will we be, as citizens, fully cognizant of the applicable laws at any point in time if we allow such rapid changes? Are we cognizant of the laws applicable to us now?

We live with Internet and technology and so our laws need to carefully establish the legal parameters surrouding these activities. But how fast can our laws keep up? I table this question and I would like to get anyone’s feedback.


Tarun Jain said...

well Amir, I have always been the firm supporter of the school which believes that law follows society. It is essentially the movement of society which law envisages as permissible or laudable and makes rules accordingly. And to this end Tax laws present a remarkable example of how and how quickly law follows societal movements and change.
Now that technology has already gripped most of the people of the world and has been continuously impacting their behaviour and actions, the reactions to this will no doubt be seen in the laws themselves. The other day I read an article in Slaw regarding online adjournments be made permissible in a county. That just goes on to show how courts and procedures are finding themselves ways and means to come up on with the changing times, times influenced by technological motivations more than ever they have done earlier.
It won't be long for the substantive law to come to terms with technology and not only provide for it but in fact arrange to live with it. The development in the field of cyber-crimes, online dispute resolutions etc. are just potent indicators of the bigger version in the offering.

I had the occasion to write a piece on the influence of technology on the average lawyer in India. Think that is somehow relevant to the issue you have raised and so am providing the link to that.

Create a digital signature said...

I agree. Technology has made an incredible impact in today's workplace. Many companies see new technology as a means to increase profitability and to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace. It also makes it easier for both individuals and corporations to send and receive information, making it not only convenient but inexpensive to send and share ideas as well.