Justice in Algorithmic Robes

Editorial by Joseph Savirimuthu of a Special Issue of the International Review of Law, Computers & Technology: “The role and impact of algorithms has attracted considerable interest in the media. Its impact is already being reflected in adjustments made in a number of sectors – entertainment, travel, transport, cities and financial services. From an innovation point of view, algorithms enable new knowledge to be created and identify solutions to problems. The emergence of smart sensing technologies, 3D printing, automated systems and robotics is seamlessly being interwoven into discourses such as ‘the collaborative economy’, ‘governance by platforms’ and ‘empowerment’. Innovations such as body worn cameras, fitness trackers, 3D printing, smart meters, robotics and Big Data hold out the promise of a new algorithmic future. However, the shift in focus from natural and scarce resources towards information also makes individuals the objects and the mediated construction of access and knowledge infrastructures now provide the conditions for harnessing value from data. The increasing role of algorithms in environments mediated by technology also coincide with growing inter-disciplinary scholarship voicing concerns about the vulnerability of the values we associate with fundamental freedoms and how these are being algorithmically reconfigured or dismantled in a systematic manner. The themed issue, Justice in Algorithmic Robes, is intended to initiate a dialogue on both the challenges and opportunities as digitalization ushers in a period of transformation that has no immediate parallels in terms of scale, speed and reach. The articles provide different perspectives to the transformation taking place in the digital environment. The contributors offer an inter-disciplinary view of how the digital economy is being invigorated and evaluate the regulatory responses – in particular, how these transformations interact with law. The different spheres covered in Justice in Algorithmic Robes – the relations between the State and individuals, autonomous technology, designing human–computer interactions, infrastructures of trust, accountability in the age of Big Data, and health and wearables – not only reveal the problem of defining spheres of economic, political and social activity, but also highlight how these contexts evolve into structures for dominance, power and control. Re-imagining the role of law does not mean that technology is the problem but the central idea from the contributions is that how we critically interpret and construct Justice in Algorithmic Robes is probably the first step we must take, always mindful of the fact that law may actually reinforce power structures….(Full Issue)”.