Law and Automation (LAWS90240)
Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5Not available in 2023
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“Automation” describes the use of machines to perform tasks that would typically be executed by humans. This subject considers law and machine-use through the lens of certain key inventions. The goal is to analyse the actual or potential impact of more recent developments (including: the Internet; virtual reality; blockchain technology; and machine learning) within the broader context of technological change. Whilst the terms “technology” and “automation” often recall digital innovation, many strides have been made throughout history that have had a profound and lasting impact on the legal system. By considering these developments in context, we equip ourselves better to analyse the legal significance of newer technologies.
Beginning with some foundational questions about the interaction between technology, justice and democracy, the subject covers many areas in which the law has evolved to accommodate or control innovation and automation. These areas include: forensic science; information monopolies and copyright; audio-visual technologies and privacy; engineering and high-speed travel; data networks; cryptography; simulation; and statistical algorithms. The subject charts a path from Bronze Age codes that emerged to govern tool use, through Classical Age machines of democratic participation, instruments of Medieval crime and punishment, the artefacts of the Printing and Industrial Revolutions, to the present Information Age.
Principal topics include:
- The Kleroterion: sortition and fundamental questions in law and technology (justice, respect, democracy, and the rule of law).
- The Polygraph: truth-seeking, fraud and forensic science.
- The Printing Press: information monopolies, copyright, and the practice of law.
- The Camera: audio-visual technologies, privacy and anthropometry.
- The Railway: the Industrial Revolution, negligence and nuisance.
- The Internet: property law and digital systems.
- Virtual Reality: assault and psychiatric harm.
- Blockchain Technology: governance and smart contracts.
- Machine Learning: revisiting fundamental questions in law and technology (justice, respect, democracy, and the rule of law).
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Be able to evaluate how the law responds to technological change in a structured and focused way, with reference to specific doctrines of private, public, and criminal law.
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of contextual legal and technological development in Australia, as it compares with other jurisdictions.
- Have a sophisticated appreciation of the ethical and political implications of automation, and of the legal responses to automation.
- Be an engaged participant in debate regarding emerging and contemporary issues in the field, such as whether and how automation affects the rule of law, procedural fairness, digital property, "smart" contracting, and interpersonal harm.
On completion of the subject students should have developed the following skills:
- Advanced and specialised skills in reading and comprehending historical, theoretical and doctrinal materials;
- Expert cognitive and technical skills for critical and independent thought and reflection;
- Mastery of technical research skills;
- The ability to communicate specialised and complex information, concepts and theories with confidence and competence.
- The ability to understand and apply general principles and theories of law, ethics and political philosophy;
- An advanced capacity for critical and independent thought and reflection.
Last updated: 24 January 2023