Did we arrive at the point where we could say: pity the societies that are ruled by law? Or should we still say: pity the societies that are ruled only by law, in order to have the statement accepted?
Needless to say, there is no guarantee of equality if the more powerful individual members of a society are left unchecked in their boundless ambition. The only way we have devised to keep this ambition and its sometimes deviant consequences in check so far has been the rule of law. But it has resulted in numerous checks and balances that are achieved through a long and cumbersome process that is increasingly seen as user unfriendly and result starved. The boundless acceleration of the social change and challenge led us to a situation in which the long awaited answers by the legal system always arrives too late to be useful. Think Napster, we have waited for the decision so eagerly only to see its total irrelevance once delivered. The technologies that substituted the underlying technology arrived sooner than the judicial decision did.
To a skeptical observer it almost might appear that most of the processes in the judicial docket are actually skilled perversions of their original goal, that the players of the system are using the system for the sake of the exploitation of its complexities for their own benefit, rather than assisting the clients in fulfilling their interests. It could be asserted that a large percentage of such debris in the judicial pipeline is a misuse of law. Regardless of the country, we have arrived to the point where judicial systems are often used in reality to produce results that are slowing down the movements in the societies.
Not only is the judicial system slow and absurdly complex, the legislative branch has become in many countries insufficiently skilled to balance the opposed interests in the ever changing carousel of technologies and the fast flowing business model changes. Special interest groups are often holding the legislator a hostage of their existing privileges and are manipulating the legislative process skilfully and successfully. Nothing wrong with all this, we almost made a virtue of this situation over the last couple of centuries by uncritically affirming the rule of law. But is it good enough of a system to serve us for the next couple of centuries? I doubt it. It appears to me that legal system is becoming, in its present form, a burden to our fast changing, integrating societies.
Douglas S. Robertson in the first chapter of his book The New Renaissance: Computers and the Next Level of Civilization seems to suggest that the volume of information contemporary societies are capable of processing is unprecedented in human history and speculates that it is bound to increase further in volume and in speed. It appears to me that such developments are leading to several strong, tectonic shifts in the way the law is used by societies to provide the necessary balance. The old concepts of sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction seem especially creaky in this light.
In other words, it is becoming obvious that speeding up of the rate of social interactions, the increase in sheer volume of frequencies of transactions and relations are devaluing the role of the traditional legal instruments, especially in the field of dispute resolution techniques. Litigation is seen as useless by an increasing number of sophisticated users, and those users are joining their experiences into a belief that law sucks. How did we arrive to that point and what are we to do when faced with this possibility? As Richard Susskind seems to point out in his seminal book The End of Lawyers?, we are going head on toward the situation where the legal risk is not going to be dealt with by lawyers at all, but with risk managers instead. The cost of legal error might simply be calculated into the price of the transaction in order to override the inherent slowness of the legal process which is so detrimental to the competitive positions of the market participants.
Law is not going to disappear, that is for sure. It is going to stay there protecting us from the criminals and providing the last resort of solution for the XXX hard-core disputes. But I somehow doubt that law will keep the same level of importance it holds in our time. I do think that more of educated individuals in more fast-moving radically educated societies that we are building nowadays will be able to extract more responsibility from their personal and commercial behavior. The ethics just might become relevant. I do see it happening and am not discouraged by the strong vestiges of consumerism that are still blinding many a member of our societies. The lack of balance that is caused by the propensity to consume proportionally to one’s needs can easily be balanced by education and introduction of truly magical technologies to the societies at large. Our educational systems should be kept at par with our capacity to introduce the technologies at ever faster, break-neck speeds without hurting ourselves. We have to work on this, hard, together, interdisciplinary, non-ideologically.