JJUA55235U Artificial Intelligence and Legal Disruption

Volume 2019/2020

Society stands on the cusp of unprecedented, even unfathomable, change as the maturation of decades of scientific research and technological development promises to unleash a wave of brilliant technologies in the near future. Few fields hold the prospect of seismic societal disruption like artificial intelligence and robotic technologies: their impending shift from science fiction to daily reality holds the potential to inundate society with flood of fundamental challenges.
Converging with these conventional conceptions of artificial intelligences based upon silicon substrates and the computer sciences are models of artificial intelligence arising from progress in neuroscience that are biologically-inspired. Thus, an expanded conception of artificial intelligence
encompasses the spectrum from produced (manufactured) to reproduced (replicated) versions. This range creates further challenges for developing appropriate regulatory responses, but also greater opportunity for providing regulatory feedback by testing the consistency and coherence of legal and
policy responses which have been framed by unspoken presumptions and implicit characteristics.

As human beings have long been accustomed to being both the dominant form of intelligence on earth, there has been little consideration for how to accommodate other intelligent entities or collectives into anthropocentric forms of organisation. This sets the stage for artificial intelligences to disrupt forms of human-centred organisation in varied and unforeseen ways, but also in systemic fashion. An important subset of anthropocentric modalities of organisation are those concerned with regulation and governance, and in particular the legal systems which are relied upon in these domains. Why might the prospect of artificial intelligence disrupt the law, regulation and
governance? And why might particular manifestations and applications of artificial intelligence disrupt discrete legal areas?


It is this potential for artificial intelligences to disrupt legal principles, processes and procedures that forms the focal point of evaluation and examination in this course. Legal disruption forms the filter through which the issues embraced in this course percolate through: only artificial intelligences, or their manifestations, which are capable of fundamentally displacing legal
presumptions or systemically distort the functioning of the regulatory system will be considered. Thus, artificial intelligences and their manifestations must raise structural or systemic challenges to governance for be included in this course. This is a necessarily high threshold, but in order to test whether an artificial intelligence or its impact passes muster, we will of course also discuss issues which might ultimately fall short.


Given the emphasis upon legal disruption, this course constantly aims at a dynamic target: as legal and policy responses to challenges posed by artificial intelligences are overcome or otherwise settled, these issues lose their disruptive effect and fall out of the ambit of this course. What loses controversy also loses interest for us. But the vantage point granted by legal disruption offers a mix of horizon-scanning for the next generation of challenges, and a measure of foresighting future issues which we will be able to prepare law and policy responses. As such, the perspective in this course celebrates the unknown and the incomplete, as a way of formulating more robust and resilient regulatory models as a response to these brilliant technologies.

Finally, the legal disruption approach allows us to deploy AI and robotic technologies as a mirror to the legal and regulatory system. It offers a rare chance to step outside of contemporary legal processes, principles and presumptions and to test their continuing efficacy, validity and tenability.
As such, the promise of investigations at the intersection of AI and the law with such a conceptual framework, is that it might ‘illuminate the whole law’. From a separate vantage point, it is also possible to see any flaws or inconsistencies more clearly. It also provides a rare opportunity to improve the law, by updating its doctrine to reflect the contemporary scientific paradigm.


This seminar is divided into three broad sections. Introducing the emerging field of RoboLaw, the aim of the first section is to critically consider the competing views proffered by commentators about both the extent of the challenge and the nature of the necessary responses. Thus, this first section explores the prominent positions taken in the literature and sketches the contours of the existing debates surrounding the use of autonomous weapons systems in armed conflict. This sets the stage for the second section, which delves into the nature of the legal challenges posed by artificial intelligence and robotic technologies. These revolve largely around issues of rights and
responsibilities, but this section will also discuss appropriate and necessary regulatory responses drawn from experience in technology regulation more broadly.

The final section grounds these more theoretical discussions to specific case studies where artificial intelligence and robotics may be societally disruptive, allowing us to consider the role the law might play in more concrete scenarios. This last section is left intentionally flexible to accommodate for
the interests of the students who are actually enrolled in the course and will be agreed upon in our first meeting, with a reading list to follow shortly after. This last section of the course is geared towards student-driven content and peer-to-peer teaching and learning, and the class is expected to be clustered into topic-centred groups which will lead the particular session for the given topic. This means that you will self-organise into groups according to the topic area of common interest, and will as a group will be responsible for conducting a full seminar on this topic. This includes finding suitable readings, disseminating these to the rest of the class through Absalon, and actually
conducting the class. It should be noted that, since it is designed along the peer-to-peer learning and teaching framework, that attention must be paid to mutual respect: continued engagement and participation is therefore mandatory and may affect your final grade.

Learning Outcome

Realisation of Faculty Objectives

The seminar provides the students with knowledge of:

  • The contemporary philosophical, political and ethical issues confronting both the law and legal practice raised by emerging science and technology.
  • A rapidly emerging, and increasingly crucial, area at the intersection of law and technology.
  • The discussions surrounding emerging social, technological and legal issues in the contemporary global context.
  • Comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to complex contemporary problems.
  • The possibilities and opportunities for improving law and justice introduced by near horizon technologies.


The seminar provides the students with the following skills:

  • The ability to identify and adopt interdisciplinary approaches, methodologies, and analysis, with a keen awareness of the possibilities and limitations.
  • The capacity to discuss legal, social and technological issues at both the transnational and international contexts.
  • The capability to think both creatively and constructively in evaluating the received legal doctrine and the implicit and explicit assumptions upon which contemporary legal processes are founded upon.
  • The ability to critically assess claims of the impact of emerging technologies upon current law, and how contemporary legal positions may adapt to accommodate technological challenges.
  • The flexibility to consider the regulatory challenges and opportunities in the context of robotics and artificial intelligence.


The seminar provides the students with the following competencies:

  • The ability to independently identify and address emerging legal issues within contemporary social and technological changes.
  • The ability to apply comparative approaches to complex problems (e.g. by researching responses developed in other jurisdictions or by drawing analogies to responses to other technological fields).
  • The capability to critically address rapidly changing global realities from a legal perspective.
  • The capacity to independently undertake rigorous legal analysis of complex social, ethical and technological issues.
  • The ability to think originally about law, policy and regulation in relation to emerging technologies revolving around robotics and artificial intelligence
  • The capacity to conduct sustained individual and group research into a self-identified topic to develop and argue a thesis.
  • The ability to draw upon research from a range of disciplines in order to better formulate specific legal research questions, and to derive improved regulatory results.
Good command of English, ready and willing participation, critical analytical abilities, openmindedness.
Willingness to challenge received knowledge.
The pedagogy of the course is elaborated in the syllabus. Peer-to-peer learning is embedded in the course as a preparation towards their individual written assessments (faculty guided, of course), and the engaged participation is critical. This is because this course is not about ‘knowledge transfer’ but more about fostering dynamic thinking processes and active response to the ideas and approaches raised in class.
The class harnesses the defamiliarisation introduced by AI and robotics to re-examine the
(entire) law from the novel vantage point that such emerging technologies offer. Rather than closing the gaps in the law, this course seeks to explore anomalies arising from the intersection between AI and the law to think differently about the law and to re-evaluate its precepts, principles and processes.
Note: the course title changed from 'RoboLaw: Law, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence'.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 356,5
  • Seminar
  • 56
  • Total
  • 412,5
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Individual written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

Autumn: submission date: December 18, 2019

Spring: submission date: May 28, 2020


Autumn: submission date: January 31, 2020

Spring: submission date: August 12, 2020