The Technology of Law Written by Sam Vaknin
One can discern following relationships between Law and Technology:
1. Sometimes technology becomes an inseparable part of law. In extreme cases, technology itself becomes law. The use of polygraphs, faxes, telephones, video, audio and computers is an integral part of many laws - etched into them. It is not an artificial co-habitation: technology is precisely defined in law and forms a CONDITION within it. In other words: very spirit and letter of law is violated (the law is broken) if a certain technology is not employed or not put to correct use. Think about police laboratories, about O.J. Simpson case, importance of DNA prints in everything from determining fatherhood to exposing murderers. Think about admissibility of polygraph tests in a few countries. Think about polling of members of boards of directors by phone or fax (explicitly required by law in many countries). Think about assisted suicide by administering painkillers (medicines are by far most sizeable technology in terms of money). Think about security screening by using advances technology (retina imprints, voice recognition). In all these cases, use of a specific, well defined, technology is not arbitrarily left to judgement of law enforcement agents and courts. It is not a set of options, a menu to choose from. It is an INTEGRAL, crucial part of law and, in many instances, it IS law itself.
2. Technology itself contains embedded laws of all kinds. Consider internet protocols. These are laws which form part and parcel of process of decentralized data exchange so central to internet. Even language used by technicians implies legal origin of these protocols: "handshake", "negotiating", "protocol", "agreement" are all legal terms. Standards, protocols, behavioural codes - whether voluntarily adopted or not - are all form of Law. Thus, internet addresses are allocated by a central authority. Netiquette is enforced universally. Special chips and software prevent render certain content inaccessible. The scientific method (a codex) is part of every technological advance. Microchips incorporate in silicone agreements regarding standards. The law becomes a part of technology and can be deduced simply by studying it in a process known as "reverse engineering". In stating this, I am making a distinction between lex naturalis and lex populi. All technologies obey laws of nature - but we, in this discussion, I believe, wish to discuss only laws of Man.
3. Technology spurs on law, spawns it, as it were, gives it birth. The reverse process (technology invented to accommodate a law or to facilitate its implementation) is more rare. There are numerous examples. The invention of modern cryptography led to formation of a host of governmental institutions and to passing of numerous relevant laws. More recently, microchips which censor certain web content led to proposed legislation (to forcibly embed them in all computing appliances). Sophisticated eavesdropping, wiring and tapping technologies led to laws regulating these activities. Distance learning is transforming laws of accreditation of academic institutions. Air transport forced health authorities all over world to revamp their quarantine and epidemiological policies (not to mention laws related to air travel and aviation). The list is interminable.
Once a law is enacted - which reflects state of art technology - roles are reversed and law gives a boost to technology. Seat belts and airbags were invented first. The law making seat belts (and, in some countries, airbags) mandatory came (much) later. But once law was enacted, it fostered formation of whole industries and technological improvements. The Law, it would seem, legitimizes technologies, transforms them into "mainstream" and, thus, into legitimate and immediate concerns of capitalism and capitalists (big business). Again, list is dizzying: antibiotics, rocket technology, internet itself (first developed by Pentagon), telecommunications, medical computerized scanning - and numerous other technologies - came into real, widespread being following an interaction with law. I am using term "interaction" judiciously because there are four types of such encounters between technology and law:
The Internet in the Countries in Transition Written by Sam Vaknin
Though countries in transition are far from being an homogeneous lot, there are a few denominators common to their Internet experience hitherto:
1. Internet invasion
The penetration of Internet in countries in transition varies from country to country - but is still very low even by European standards, not to mention by American ones. This had to do with lack of infrastructure, prohibitive cost of services, an extortionist pricing structure, computer illiteracy and luddism (computer phobia). Societies in countries in transition are inert (and most of them, conservative or traditionalist) - following years of central mis-planning. The Internet (and computers) are perceived by many as threatening - mainly because they are part of a technological upheaval which makes people redundant.
2. The rumour mill
All manner of instant messaging - mainly earlier versions of IRC - played an important role in enhancing social cohesion and exchanging uncensored information. As in other parts of world - Internet was first used to communicate: IRC, MIRC e-mail and e-mail fora were - and to a large extent, are - all rage.
The IRC was (and is) used mainly to exchange political views and news and to engage in inter-personal interactions. The media in countries in transition is notoriously unreliable. Decades of official indoctrination and propaganda left people reading between (real or imaginary) lines. Rumours and gossip always substituted for news and Internet was well suited to become a prime channel of dissemination of conspiracy theories, malicious libel, hearsay and eyewitness accounts. Instant messaging services also led to an increase in number (though not necessarily in quality) of interactions between users - from dating to provision of services, Internet was enthusiastically adopted by a generation of alienated youth, isolated from world by official doctrine and from each other by paranoia fostered by political regime. The Internet exposed its users to west, to other models of existence where trust and collaboration play a major role. It increase quantity of interaction between them. It fostered a sense of identity and community. The Internet is not ubiquitous in countries in transition and, therefore, its impact is very limited. It had no discernible effect on how governments work in this region. Even in USA it is just starting to effect political processes and be integrated in them.
The Internet encouraged entrepreneurship and aspirations of social mobility. Very much like mobile telephony - which allowed countries in transition to skip massive investments in outdated technologies - Internet was perceived to be a shortcut to prosperity. Its decentralized channels of distribution, global penetration, "rags to riches" ethos and dizzying rate of innovation - attracted young and creative. Many decided to become software developers and establish local version of "Silicon Valley" or flourishing software industry in India. Anti virus software was developed in Russia, web design services in former Yugoslavia, e-media in Czech Republic and so on. But this is reserve of a minuscule part of society. E-commerce, for instance, is a long way off (though m-commerce might be sooner in countries like Czech Republic or Baltic).
E-commerce is natural culmination of a process. You need to have a rich computer infrastructure, a functioning telecommunications network, cheap access to Internet, computer literacy, inability to postpone gratification, a philosophy of consumerism and, finally, a modicum of trust between players in economy. The countries in transition lack all of above. Most of them are not even aware that Internet exists and what it can do for them. Penetration rates, number of computers per household, number of phone lines per household, reliability of telecommunications infrastructure and number of Internet users at home (and at work)- are all dismally low. On other hand, cost of accessing net is still prohibitively high. It would be a wild exaggeration to call budding Internet enterprises in countries in transition - "industries". There are isolated cases of success, that's all. They sprang in response to local demand, expanded internationally on rare occasions and, on whole remained pretty confined to their locale. There was no agreement between countries and entrepreneurs who will develop what. It was purely haphazard.