Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence and the Law
The Sir Henry Brooke Lecture for BAILII Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
London Lord Sales, Justice of the UK Supreme Court
The topic I have chosen is a huge one. However, it is so important that I think lawyers generally – and that includes judges – should be trying to think through the issues which are already with us and those which are coming down the track towards us. And coming very fast.
I also think it is a topic which would have appealed to Henry Brooke. Henry was a deeply thoughtful lawyer and judge. He had a strong interest in information technology and the opportunities it created. He was closely involved with efforts over many years to create an online court. He was instrumental in persuading judges to move to the now universal practice of dividing judgments into numbered paragraphs and using neutral citation references, to improve searchability using IT. He was a leading supporter of BAILII, the indispensable free online service for British and Irish lawyers; and was its chair for a decade. When he retired from the bench he became an avid adept of social media, as a blogger and a user of Twitter with nigh on 10,000 followers. I like to think that Henry would have been interested in where we are going with our increasingly digital world, which is the subject of this lecture.
How should legal doctrine adapt to accommodate the new world, in which so many social functions are speeded up, made more efficient, but also made more impersonal by algorithmic computing processes?
At least with computer algorithms, one still has human agency in the background, guiding processes through admittedly complex computer programming. Still more profoundly, however, how should legal doctrine adapt to processes governed without human agency, by artificial intelligence – that is, by autonomous computers generating their own solutions, free from any direct human control?