Saturday, September 01, 2007

Peering into the Future of Law

Most legal scholarship is aimed at the realm of the possible and therefore focuses on problems that seem imminent and solutions that seem reasonably feasible in the short-to-middle run. Who is thinking deeper into the future about law? A fairly random search revealed some interesting sites.

A posting for a conference on "the rights of transhuman purposes." If you want more detail:
The stated purposes of the meeting were to

1. provide the public with informed perspectives regarding the legal rights and obligations of "transhuman persons" via audio/video webcast (including transcripts) of expert presentations, challenges and discussions.

2. begin development of a body of law covering the rights and obligations of conscious computers, cryogenically-revived persons and other entities that transcend, and yet encompass, conventional conceptions of humanness.
Another interesting find: a book on Star Trek and the law. Here's a description of the book from an Amazon review:
An eclectic variety of learned authors draw upon ideas presented in Star Trek as a model of the future, and scrutinize the possible fallout for all-too-prevalent legal dilemmas of today and tomorrow. Essays include "The Law of the Federation", "What Color is an Android?", "Star Trek as a Pedagogical Vehicle for Teaching Law and Justice", and much more. Extensively researched in law codes as surely as episode references, Star Trek Visions is thoroughly serious in its examination of evolving human law systems and may even appear a bit dry to television fans, but applies just the right mix of popular culture to as a very effective metaphor and illustration for issues whose universality that far transcend even the most widespread TV show.
There must be a lot more out there! Please add any "finds" of your own.

Image from


Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regard to the first conference and the future of law: this stuff is science fiction, and bad science fiction at that insofar as it takes itself too seriously, perhaps not appreciating its truly fictional character. It is, in other words, pure unadulterated fantasy, which may have its purposes, but I doubt one of them is significantly relevant to contemplating the "future of law," unless, that is one believes such stuff really does outline some plausible or possible scenario that will come to pass. It does not even serve as an instance of utopian imagination (on the essentials of which, please see Chapter 2, 'Utopian Thought and Moral Philosophy,' in William A. Galston's Justice and the Good, 1980), indeed, I see it rather as a poor illustration of dystopian musings, based on an ill-conceived construction of human beings from the materials of technocratic fantasy. Perhaps its relevance is the contemplation of the role of law in a future dystopian world. Over at Prawfsblawg ( and then Concurring Opionions( we had occasion to comment on this sort of stuff.

The second link strikes me as far more harmless, on the order of "Law and Humanities" scholarship.

I think if we really want to contemplate the future of the law in a way that illustrates connections with present-day developments and trends, with at least some plausibility and possibility, then we might more closely examine the history and current character of international and transnational law, as well as the centripetal and centrifugal forces of globalization. This would involve sustained reflections on the nature of the nation state, the meaning of sovereignty, the dynamics of capitalism, the latest research in the ecological sciences, the character and pace of technological development, questions of global distributive justice, the nature of contemporary social movements, the importance of communal and religious identity, the relations between the political and para-political, and so forth and so on. These and more would be among the variables intrinsic to any discussion of the future of law, sharing the virtue of having some grounding in the present....

9/02/2007 11:18 PM  

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