February 18 2021

In a striking new book – Runaway Technology – Can the Law Keep Up? – Law Professor Joshua Fairfield argues that the prevailing narrative that law cannot keep pace with technological change is essentially propaganda by tech giants anxious to avoid legal responsibility for their actions. Fairfield reminds us that law is actually a dynamic social technology that has always provided tools for interrogating and adapting the narratives that shape human culture. It can do this with current challenges posed by the tech industry too. But in order to do so we first have to stop drinking the techno-determinism Kool Aid.

Joshua Fairfield is Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law. He is an internationally recognized law and technology scholar, specializing in digital property, electronic contract, big data privacy, and virtual communities. He has written on the law and regulation of e-commerce and online contracts and on the application of standard economic models to virtual environments. His current research focuses on big data privacy models and the next generation of legal applications for cryptocurrencies.

Julia Powles is the Director of the Minderoo Tech & Policy Lab and an Associate Professor of Law and Technology at The University of Western Australia. A scholar, lawyer, and writer, Julia wrestles with questions of power in the digital economy, regularly finding herself in the cross-hairs of the world’s biggest companies. With a background in biophysics, genetics, and law in Australia, she spent 12 years in leading research and public institutions in Europe and the United States, and now continues her work on technology and public interest with Perth as her base and Australia-Asia as her focus.

Simon Deakin is a professor in the Faculty of Law and Director of the Centre for Business Research at Cambridge University. He researches in the economics of law and is currently PI on projects exploring the relationship between law, digitalisation and artificial intelligence, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. His books include ‘Is Law Computable? Critical Pespectives on Law and Artificial Intelligence’ (Hart Publishing, 2020, edited with Christopher Markou).