• José Everton da Silva

In Tech We Trust? Law, Technology and the Third World


In Tech We Trust? Law, Technology and the Third World

In our article, “In Tech We Trust? Some General Remarks on Law in the Technological Era from a Third World Perspective”, recently published in the Journal Juridical Opinion, we have tried to explore a critical view of the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in legal matters. Our views regarding the advancement of technology into legal systems are often dissident from the instrumental discourse of technology as a liberational tool, because in our account this vision does not provide the critical theoretical tools necessary to question the “visions of heaven” of AI technology applied to legal issues.

That this vision of technology as a dream of liberation has entrenched legal scholarship and practice in the Global North is nothing new. What might constitute novelty is the fact that this discourse has been, in recent decades, adopted by the “less developed”, often poor countries in the periphery of global economy. The use of AI in courtrooms promises an improvement in “old” and “inefficient” legal systems, but at what cost for Third World countries? That question was the cornerstone of our investigation.

In our Introduction, we tried to explain, summarily, the origin of this “common faith” on technology. We do not deny that science and technology has provided humanity with gifts that it could not receive from “cosmic birthrights” as defended by professor Pinker, from Harvard University. We simply question how far does technology serve as a solid tool we have clear control over. We consider that this linear and triumphalist view lacks the sense of critique necessary to evaluate the negative results of the uses of technology in society, especially in legal systems.

To develop such critique, we adopted a “theoretical tripod”, based on the notions of “Technopoly” from Neil Postman, the concept of “Sociotechnical Imaginary” from professor Sheila Jasanof, and the idea of “Third World” proposed by professor Rahul Rao.

In sum, we tried to show how the dream of AI replacing lawyers and even judges often leaves no space for imagination and critique. AI is often portrayed as the future of humanity, and subsequently the future of any social arrangement, including Law, and our role as citizens is simply to trust that “intelligent machines will create a paradise for humanity”. This vision (of technology as universal, ubiquitous) not only subjugates existing cultural and societal practices and institutions, as pointed out by Postman. It also ignores sociotechnical imaginaries, which are “collectively held, institutionally stabilized, and publicly performed views of desirable futures, animated by shared understandings of forms of social life and social order attainable through, and supportive of, advances in science and technology”, taking for granted whether countries/societies desire or not to make use of such technological developments.

In economic terms, the category “Third World” helped us to explicit the hierarchical relationship between rich and poor in the context of contemporary global economy. The Third World countries are always portrayed as being in a lower stage of technological civilization, and it could not be different when it comes to the use of technology in legal matters. As they have no capability whatsoever to develop their own technological innovations with applicability in law (due to many factors, including intellectual monopoly and technological exclusion in general), what is left for them is to simply assume the role of consumers instead of developers.

In this sense, we try to denounce how the countries in the Third World become merely recipients of the technological advancements achieved by those that have the capabilities of developing and increasing constantly the various technological innovations at their disposal. Therefore, one has to bear in mind that, if the Third World wants to embrace the “future” of Law through the use and application of AI innovations in legal processes, it has to be aware not only of the “benefits” of this magical recipe for progress, but of the negative consequences that might come attached to it as well.

José Everton da Silva, Universidade do Vale do Itajaí - Itajaí Campus. School for Legal and Social Sciences.Itajaí, State of Santa Catarina, Brazil.

Erick da Luz Scherf, Universidade do Vale do Itajaí - Itajaí Campus. School for Legal and Social Sciences.Itajaí, State of Santa Catarina, Brazil.

Marcos Vinicius Viana da Silva, Universidade do Vale do Itajaí - Itajaí Campus. School for Legal and Social Sciences.Itajaí, State of Santa Catarina, Brazil.


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