The 21st Century has brought with it a boom in technological advancement, arguably becoming an era in history which will be seen as the one which saw progress manifest the quickest and most disruptively. The word ‘disruptive’ (in the context of technology) only insinuates that the technology was so far reaching, so pervasive, and so all-encompassing that it resulted in drastic changes to the modes in which society and commercial activities operate.
It is no secret that codified law always lags behind the zeitgeist of an era. Matters which require regulation are- without exception- regulated in retrospect rather than proactively. The reason for this is summarized eloquently in the Collingridge Dilemma. The dilemma highlights a hard problem with regulating technology in 2 simple prongs. First, when a technology is created, not enough is known about it in order to effectively regulate it before understanding its ramifications on society, economics and individuals. Second, when such knowledge is attained (after the passage of time), that technology is far too entrenched in society to be effectively regulated. A good example is the internet. When it was initially created, it was a closed network started by DARPA (a US Military Program) for intelligence sharing and secure communication. However, at the time of its creation, not even its creators could imagine the impact that the internet would have on the world once it became globalized. Today, the internet’s reach is (relatively) well understood, but it is far too entrenched in our everyday lives to be effectively regulated without completely changing the nature and use of the internet.
An understanding of the complex problems revolving around technology is essential for every lawyer, social scientist, politician, and businessperson, in order for our world to move forward in a careful, balanced and thoughtful manner. The industrial revolution reaped great results in terms of technology put into practice, but the costs to natural resources and air/ozone quality were not well understood. Thus today, we see an escalation in climate change which can largely be attributed (and traced back to) the boom in industry. There will definitely be negative impacts of technology on the environment, on economics and even on the very fabric of our social values, and thus it is imperative to ensure our policymakers are aware of the multifarious elements which progress along with technology in order to effectively utilize it whilst minimizing associated risks.
There is a philosophical concept which reads: ‘what we create, in turn creates us’. The same is true for technology we create. Granted, Pakistan is an emerging name on the global map when it comes to technology innovation. However, a lack of infrastructure and innovation-related opportunities does not need to percolate into our legal community- lawyers ought to be, and are expected to be at par with all global shifts in technology and must remain up-to-date with developments in these areas.
In order to assist the Courts or legislative assemblies, lawyers and lawmakers must be aware of the multifarious nature and modalities of technology. This understanding can only exist once a systematic, considered approach is taken to understand the fundamentals of technology and its impact on the various aspects of the staus quo.
The Ziauddin University Faculty of Law, Centre for Law & Technology aims to address national, as well as international problems associated with law & technology.
In Pakistan, there are technology-related problems which are far more fundamental than regulation. Digital literacy is a key issue for our people and in order for our country to even imagine being at par with the rest of the developed world, our people must be technologically and digitally literate.
First and foremost, the Centre shall begin a program for digital literacy, which shall be open to all students of Ziauddin University. It shall include experts teaching students how to operate basic and advanced computer software, an understanding on how the digital landscape can be utilized and of course, the Centre shall conduct trainings pertaining to all necessary programs which have become a norm in every workplace across the globe. This shall allow students to have the necessary skills required to work in a modern-day workplace.
Second, the Centre shall conduct seminars and panel discussions on global digital trade, e-commerce (a multi-trillion-dollar industry), e-services and remote employment. This shall allow the students to understand that the commercial nature of the internet and remote services is a new normal, and traditional methods of employment and the meaning of ‘being productive’ have changed in the 21st century. Effort does not equate to results. Being technology resourceful (and creative), however, does.
Next, the Centre shall create modules of study for students to choose as electives in their 4th and 5th Year of study. These modules shall be purely academic, and shall acquaint the students with technology-related problems which global leaders in academics are discussing in order to allow for further progress, within certain parameters of social acceptance and normative appeal. These modules shall include studies on the following topics:
- Data Protection
- Digital Privacy
- Intellectual Property Laws
- Big Data Analytics & its impact
- Smart Contracts
- Blockchain Technology
- Artificial Intelligence & Law
- Biotech & Ethics
- Society & Technology studies
Furthermore, the Centre shall source foreign lawyers and policymakers (predominantly from the EU, where the most deliberation takes place with respect to technology, society and law) to conduct online talks (and discussions with our students) with respect to modern problems and how their country or organization is tackling them. This will give our students a more professional and practical look into these complex issues, further enhancing their skills and knowledge as legal professionals.
Finally, through the (emerging) fellowship program, the Centre shall source foreign lawyers and to conduct research on technology and law related matters which are critical to be addressed in Pakistan, in light of where the global level of progress has reached.
To conclude; Such a Centre is not only novel, but also puts ZFL on the map as a future-centric organization which is cultivating students who are fully equipped to deal with the nuances and problems which are unique to this day and age.