I have a hunch that law and the evolution of legal systems will have to play a more central role in what’s going to come in the near future… if it’s not too late, and there is going to be a future worth exploring at all.
In a new book, Gillian Hadfield, argues that economic growth throughout human history has depended at least as much on the evolution of new systems of rules to support ever-more complex modes of cooperation and trade, as it has on technological innovation. The number one challenge of the modern economy is increasing complexity, and the number one source of complexity is law. He thinks of governance as a form of infrastructure, a mostly invisible platform of rules and practices that allow us to cooperate.
Current legal systems are still rooted in the politics-based nation-state platform on which the industrial revolution was built. Now we are talking about a 4th industrial revolution, but the law and legal methods on which we currently rely have failed to evolve along with technology. They are increasingly unable to cope with the speed and complexity of our new globally inter-connected environment.
At Santa Fe Institute, they go even further to compare law and regulation with society’s operating system.
Much as Linux, Windows, and iOS coordinate the execution of computing applications, laws coordinate the execution of human society.
How bloated can our societal operating system get before its starts to fail? How sure are we that present and future societal apps will run on it? Do legal systems occasionally need complete redesigns as software operating systems do? Does the complexity of our current regulatory system exceed our human capacity for attention? Can artificial intelligence help address this constraint?
Meanwhile, we have got used to disruption as the only way forward with new technologies. Technologists and Silicon Valley’s urban elite fetishize disruption.
This is the lifeblood of our industry, We don’t merely thrive on it; we actively seek it out.
And disruption calls for more disruption, as this week this urban elite has shockingly realized when they woke up to meet the new president-elect Donald Trump.
Now, it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle, but hopefully not to late to have an honest debate on the politics of our artifacts, and sit together to design a new operating system—LawOS— for a smarter society.