News Item

December 2016

Three new projects funded from the ILAPP Fund

The New Zealand Law Foundation is delighted to announce research awards from the recent applications considered under the Law Foundation’s Information Law and Policy Project (ILAPP). ILAPP is a catalyst for some exciting new research that will better prepare New Zealand for the challenges of the information age. The results of the research will be aimed at helping law- and policy-makers keep up with the bewildering pace of change across the technology spectrum.

The New Zealand Law Foundation extends its thanks to all applicants who participated in the recent round.

The successful applications are:

1. Regulation of new technology: Institutions and processes

Principal investigator: Dr James Every-Palmer (Stout Street Chambers, Wellington)

Research grant awarded: $22,250.

Project description: The goal of this study is to consider which institutions and processes are most appropriate for accommodating new technologies into New Zealand’s regulatory and legal frameworks. The research will map the kinds of issues which new technologies commonly give rise to; consider the current approach to accommodating new technologies; and look at alternative institutional and procedural options based on first principles and the experience of other countries. New technologies and associated business models such as bitcoin, drones, Uber, Airbnb, autonomous vehicles, grid scale battery technologies and digital rights management give rise to a wide variety of regulatory issues. The proposed study will seek to understand what overarching lessons can be learnt about the appropriate regulatory institutions and processes for accommodating such technologies.

2. ‘Smart contracts’ and the digitalisation of law

Principal investigator: Dr James Every-Palmer (Stout Street Chambers, Wellington)

Research grant awarded: $19,250.

Project description: The proposed research will assess the work being done on “smart contracts” (that is, contracts that run as computer code) including the development of formal programming languages for contracts, and consider whether this work could be used to facilitate the digitalisation of the law, particularly legislation. The study will survey current smart contract developments, identify potential opportunities for, and limitations of, these technologies, and as a case study, consider the potential for smart contracts to facilitate the digitalisation of the law, particularly legislation.

3. Artificial Intelligence and Law in New Zealand

Principal investigators: Associate Professor Colin Gavaghan (Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies, Faculty of Law, University of Otago), Associate Professor Ali Knott (Department of Computer Science, University of Otago), and Associate Professor James Maclaurin (Department of Philosophy, University of Otago)

Research grant awarded: Provisional award of $337,217 approved, with a further tranche to come.

Project description: The proposed research involves a three-year multidisciplinary research study evaluating legal and policy implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for New Zealand. The study will address general themes and challenges associated with AI and will contain several specific sub-themes. The major research questions will relate to:

  • challenges posed by autonomous and semi-autonomous machines to notions of responsibility and culpability;
  • questions of transparency and scrutability posed by decision-making algorithms, with particular reference to the criminal justice system;
  • questions relating to employment, and in particular the replacement of human jobs by AI; and
  • questions of ‘machine morality’, and the normative rules with which autonomous machines will be programmed.

The deadline for the next ILAPP funding round is Friday 24 February 2017. Interested individuals are encouraged to contact the ILAPP Project Manager for further information about the project or to discuss research proposals and ideas.