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Technological Rationality: the Logos of Slavery or the Enabler of Human(e) Progress?

Technological development has faced criticism. The efficiency brought by industrialization and computer technology is expected to eventually lead to unpleasant outcome. The critics have developed by means of science-fiction stories about a future filled with technology. It is assumed that people stagnate and indulge only their animal desires. In the second scenario, the people become insensitive robots relying only on pure reason. (Steve Fuller, New frontiers in science and technology (Polity, Cambridge 2007) 232 p)

Herbert Marcuse was of the opinion that the logos of technology equals to the logos of slavery. People have become tools, even if it was thought that the technology releases persons. In his book One-dimensional Man published in 1964, Marcuse says that in the historical continuum man has been and will be the master of the other man. This is a social reality which societal changes do not affect. The basis for domination, however, has changed over the ages. Personal dependence has been replaced by an objective order of dependency, such as the dependency of a slave to the master has changed to the dependence of the economic laws and of the market. In accordance with Marcuse this higher form of rationality deprives natural and spiritual resources more efficiently and shares profits in a new way. A man can be seen as a slave in the production machinery and there is a battle of the existence in the production machinery. The battle affects with the destructive power the production machinery and its parts, such as builders and users.

Marcuse’s ideas certainly give some food for thought. And while I don’t completely agree with them. The debate continues in our new blog: http://legalfuturology.blogspot.com

Let me give you a brief introduction:

The title of the blog, Legal Futurology, contains a certain degree of deliberate ambiguity. You, Dear Reader, may wonder, what kind of a future we are talking about and what the law has to do it. At this point we don’t expect we will be writing about futures (the financial instruments) or about future developments in the law in general, say, regarding the resolution of the financial crisis or the next EU treaty or planned directive this or statute that or what the court will (or should) decide in Rubber v. Glue or whatever. While we cannot promise to avoid such topics altogether (classic evasive move there), what we have in mind are some very specific aspects of the future and the law.

The future we are referring to is that of the William Gibson quotation ‘The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.’ It is also that of Richard Susskind’s book Future of Law. And since at least one of us is a board-certified Legal Realist, there might be the odd dash of future in the sense of Prediction Theory thrown in as well.

More concretely, we both are researchers at the University of Helsinki working at the intersection of law and artificial intelligence. Our perspectives are quite different, as one of us (Anniina) studies AI as the object of legal regulation, whereas the other (Anna) studies AI as a tool to facilitate legal information retrieval or even do legal reasoning by itself. These complementary perspectives should open up for a broader range of topics than either one of us could do by herself. We are also planning to take advantage of this in more traditional fora through co-authored publications (stay tuned!).

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