This call for papers is for an interdisciplinary virtual seminar exploring interpretations, intersections, and tensions between the law of equity and new technologies. Drawing on work by the likes of Franco Berardi, Ian Bogost, Adam Greenfield, and Bernard Stiegler, we welcome speculative theories, critical fields of thought, and futurological perspectives. We also welcome contributions from the arts, and more traditional legal and jurisprudential points of view on a techno-equitable future.
As a body of doctrines and principles, equity encompasses fiduciary law, contractual remedies, injunctions, and trusts, operating in and around common law jurisdictions to mitigate the harshness of bright-line rules and legislative encumbrances. Equity also finds form and substance in civil law jurisdictions, and critical, sociological, spiritual, and philosophical analyses of legal thought and practice. Several features of equity’s jurisdiction are undergoing re-evaluation in light of new technologies, notably smart contracts and specific performance, cryptoassets and property definitions, and blockchains and trusts. Yet equity’s explicit contribution to the shaping of new technological horizons remains under-theorized.
Technologies have long amplified the reach and transformed the character of rules and laws by exposing them to and intermingling them with code and alternative systems and networks of governance and regulation. In a meshwork of legal and computer code, jurisdictional and networked practices, human and machinic interfaces, what possible futures are in store for equity? If the rules and laws of man become indistinguishable from those of machines, what emphasis or authority could or should we place on discretion as a tool of legal reason; what obligations, for example, might underscore machinic fiduciaries? New technological horizons promise a greater and far more sophisticated optimization of human life and systems than classical computing has achieved. Quantum computers and advanced artificial intelligence will be capable of reasoning, rationalization, simulation, and justification that is truly alien to human understanding. As a last vestige of human discretionary advantage, will equity be subsumed by new machinic intelligences or destroyed by them, and what does, or can equity tell us about humanity’s relationship with its machines?
The seminar is hosted by Dr Robert Herian at The Open University Law School and is an Equity and Trusts Research Network (ETRN) event. The seminar will take place on 8th April 2021, with morning and afternoon sessions to take account of different time zones. An edited collection based on the seminar is also under consideration.