A reflection on AI and legal issues

BY LI MIN | 01-25-2024
Chinese Social Sciences Today

Global Legal Change in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

The political nature of digital technology is evident in the control exerted by individuals or institutions over digital technology, technological products, and their respective code, leading to increased wealth and political influence. Additionally, states and government institutions, as core political entities, are inevitably involved in various political, economic, cultural, and social issues arising from digital technology. This determines that the development of the internet, big data, and AI based on digital technology is inevitably political. Despite vast differences in ideologies and social systems in today’s world, all countries regulate the internet to varying degrees through their own political mechanisms and legal means, constituting the general relationship pattern of technology, politics, and law. 

Global Legal Change in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Yu Shengfeng, an associate professor from the School of Law at Beihang University, attempts to delve into the dual underlying logic of legal evolution and digital technology, discussing two fundamental problem sets.

In the era of AI, law has transitioned from the paradigm of natural language to the co-existence of natural language and code-algorithm paradigms. The empowerment of AI represents a potential evolutionary trend in law that will usher humanity into the era of a “non-anthropocentric” intelligent society. The “deep learning” traits of intelligent machines in a smart society will challenge traditional legal forms without such deep learning features. 

Traditional law will encounter code and algorithms, gradually leading to its partial or complete replacement by code in many fields. A series of algorithmic mechanisms out of state control will continue to give rise to various types of privately tailored “niche laws.”

As the internet, big data, and AI technology are widely applied in political, social, and economic life, which risks will emerge to challenge personal freedom, dignity, autonomy, privacy? After revealing the historical predicament of various social, political, and systemic “black boxes” resulting from the new technological revolution, Yu points out the fundamental problem of computational jurisprudence: whether there exists a legal means to overcome the opaque nature of machine language and digital technology that increasingly dominate individual and social life? Can we confront the algorithmic “black box” stemming from the closed operation of empowered AI? If the harm caused by AI and algorithmic technology “black boxes” cannot be mitigated or circumvented, what steps should the political and legal systems take? 

In addition to these questions, the author also strives to diagnose specific issues concerning privacy and intellectual property rights in the era of AI, and presents a conceptual framework for reconstructing ethics in light of new technology at an abstract theoretical level.

Li Min is an associate professor from the School of Law at China University of Political Science and Law.