Four Laws for Managing the Laws
By my count, the U.S. currently has more laws than any country at any time in history. Well, that’s not true – the part about “my count.” No one could possibly count all the laws on the books across the U.S.
It’s not surprising, then, that the U.S. has far more prisoners than any country at any time in history. Are people in the U.S. bigger lawbreakers than those in other countries, or do we just provide more laws to break?
In 2015 I wrote this column where I proposed the following four-step approach to correcting the situation. Essentially, “Four Laws for Managing the Laws”:
- Public Access Requirement: All laws must be posted in one central online location. Any laws not posted on this website will be deemed unenforceable.
- Sunsetting Laws: Any laws that have not been applied or enforced in the past 20 years become unenforceable and must be removed from the list.
- Simplification: All laws must be written at an 8th-grade comprehension level. No new laws can go into effect, or current laws enforced until they’re certified to have reached this standard.
- Code of Government Ethics: No governmental entity shall be allowed to directly profit from the enforcement of its own laws. After all, whenever there’s a direct profit motive that links enactment with enforcement, the nature of government changes, and our humanity becomes compromised.
How to make this transition is another matter. When I wrote the column in 2015 it was clear that this would require a technology solution – massive, computerized databases along with personal apps and AI that could steer every citizen down the straight and narrow. Finally, “ignorance of the law” would truly not be an excuse.
Public Access in the form of a Wikipedia for all the Laws
What better way to accomplish items 1-3 than with a thorough AI review and scrub of current laws and then AI management of the process going forward? While the tech world seems to be focused on AI bias in most AI-based service offerings, the biases in our human-based systems are running rampant.
Since any government entity will be loath to take on this project, I predict a judicial reform group or some other entity will develop an AI program that will assemble and combine our federal, state, and local codes into one single website – the first step noted above. This will be like a Wikipedia for all the laws, searchable and complete for all federal, state, and local laws.
With that in place and with all of the public scrutiny and site perusals that will follow, it’s just a matter of time until people demand that governments adopt imperatives 2, 3, and 4 as follows.
Integrating the Legal AI algorithm with records from all of our court systems will allow the system to identify archaic laws that haven’t been violated or enforced in 20 years.
AI editing is not ideal, as any copywriter will tell you, but with the right coaching and continual learning, it won’t be long until the Legal AI algorithm will be able to translate the most obtuse legalese into an understandable 8th-grade version.
The AI-based continual review of this website will also be able to identify the laws on the books that are egregiously self-serving and document all the cases. With all this ammunition in place, a special task force can be assembled and empowered to not only shine a light on these abuses but also devise a strategy for correcting the underlying ethical violations.
The Art of Collective Compilations
We can see one example of how this kind of database could be implemented in a Wiki-type setting. The Center for Law, Science and Innovation at Arizona State University is compiling all of the so-called “soft laws”—principles, best practices, expectations, and recommendations – that have been published around the ethical use and governance of AI itself.
As it stands today, these standards are unenforceable, but the compilation will invariably help guide the activities of companies and individuals around the utilization of AI technology in the absence of government laws and regulations (i.e., “hard laws”) that can’t possibly keep up with the technology advances in this area.
While this wouldn’t be a complete compilation of all the laws, it would be a major compilation nonetheless, putting all of these disparate directives into one accessible database.
Blockchain Option is a Possibility
Since I put this issue out there seven years ago, the evolution of two technologies has convinced me that this reform is more attainable than ever.
This Legal Code would be a massive document, to put it mildly. It would likely be one of the biggest databases ever created unless we do some serious paring back and editing along the lines of imperatives 2 and 3 respectively. Still, it will be big.
Storage of this single source of all the laws might someday be done on a specially designed blockchain. Currently, the files are too large, but I have no doubt that innovators will overcome that scaling issue in the next few years.
The blockchain would be an ideal repository because documents stored on the blockchain are tamper-resistant, can be widely viewed and shared, and remain decentralized so they’re not subject to manipulation by one or more of today’s bad actors.
New, updated versions of our Legal Code could be uploaded daily or, in the future, instantaneously, as laws are adopted, changed, sunsetted, or repealed.
This is also a Job for the Metaverse
I proposed, somewhat tongue-in-cheek at the time, that if I could suggest a fifth imperative of this new legal system it would be that all new laws would be game-tested before they’re implemented.
We’ve got just the place for that – the metaverse, where situations in the “real world” can be replicated and experienced in this parallel, alternate reality.
Sending new laws for a test run in the metaverse is like throwing raw meat into a lion cage. If the new law has flaws, workarounds, or unintended consequences, virtual people and societies will quickly uncover them, and the laws can be modified or scrapped as appropriate.
And speaking of laws in the metaverse, should they parallel laws in the real world? Are there aspects of the metaverse that would require their own laws, legal system, and law enforcement?
That’s a subject for another time – in fact, next week!