Ethics in AI Colloquium - AI in the Law or AI in the Place of Law?

Professor Gerald Postema, Dr Natalie Bryom, Prof. Sarah Green, Prof. Timothy Endicott, Prof. John Tasioulas
Ethics in AI Colloquium - AI in the Law or AI in the Place of Law?

Available to read is an overview of the event written by Konrad Ksiazek, (DPhil Student in Law at Balliol College, University of Oxford, Affiliated Student at the Institute for Ethics in AI).

Available to watch is a recording of this event on YouTube.

Abstract: The exponential growth in the power and reach of artificial intelligence poses a special challenge for the rule of law: AI and machine learning have colonized the law itself. AI, suitably regulated, has a role to play in ordinary operations of the law, but it must not take the place of law. AI’s distinctive modus operandi, its characteristic mode of reasoning and its design for social control, contrasts sharply with law’s distinctive mode of reasoning. Governance by algorithm leaves no room for legal reasoning, and hence no room for judgment, reflection, interpersonal engagement, or personal decision-maker responsibility. But we might ask what of value would be lost to us as individuals and to our political communities if AI were to replace law in a large swath of our political and personal lives? This lecture explores and assesses several potential consequences of the replacement of law with AI technologies. 

The Institute for Ethics in AI will bring together world-leading philosophers and other experts in the humanities with the technical developers and users of AI in academia, business and government. The ethics and governance of AI is an exceptionally vibrant area of research at Oxford and the Institute is an opportunity to take a bold leap forward from this platform.

Every day brings more examples of the ethical challenges posed by AI; from face recognition to voter profiling, brain machine interfaces to weaponised drones, and the ongoing discourse about how AI will impact employment on a global scale. This is urgent and important work that we intend to promote internationally as well as embedding in our own research and teaching here at Oxford.



Professor Gerald Postema

Professor Gerald J. Postema, Boshamer Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law, Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (BA, Calvin College—1970; PhD, Cornell University—1976; Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Athens—2016). He served as Arthur L. Goodhart Distinguished Visiting Professor of Legal Science, and Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (2013-14). He is a former Guggenheim Fellow, Rockefeller Fellow (Bellagio), Fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies, and Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute (Florence). In 2022, Oxford University Press published his Law’s Rule: The Nature, Value, and Viability of the Rule of Law. Other major publications include Bentham and the Common Law Tradition, 2nd edition (OUP, 2019), Utility, Publicity, and Law: Bentham’s Moral and Legal Philosophy (OUP, 2019); On the Law of Nature, Reason, and the Common Law: Selected Jurisprudential Writings of Sir Matthew Hale (OUP, 2017), Legal Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: The Common Law World (Springer, 2013). He served as associate editor of reatise of General Jurisprudence and the Philosophy of Law, associate editor, 12 volumes: volumes 1-5, Springer, 2005; volumes 6-8, Springer, 2007; volumes 9-10, Springer 2009; vol. 11, Springer 2011; vol. 12, Springer, 2016. reatise of General Jurisprudence and the Philosophy of Law, associate editor, 12 volumes: volumes 1-5, Springer, 2005; volumes 6-8, Springer, 2007; volumes 9-10, Springer 2009; vol. 11, Springer 2011; vol. 12, Springer, 2016.Treatise of General Jurisprudence and the Philosophy of Law, 12 volumes (Springer, 2005-2016). From 1997 to 2006, he edited Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Law. Currently, he is co-editor of Cambridge Elements: Philosophy of Law. Thomas Bustamante and Thiago Lopes Decat edited a collection of essay in his honor, Philosophy of Law as an Integral Part of Philosophy: Essays on the Jurisprudence of Gerald J. Postema (Hart, 2020).


Profile image of Dr Natalie Byrom

Dr Natalie Byrom is Director of Research at The Legal Education Foundation and Founder and Director of Justice Lab- a policy and evidence centre using data and evidence to tackle the most pressing problems facing the justice system. At Justice Lab, Dr Byrom leads a programme of work which aims to improve the quality and availability of data about the justice system and build public trust and confidence in the use of data and data driven technologies. She was formerly adviser to Ministry of Justice on open data, where she led work to develop a data strategy for the courts service in England and Wales. She is part of the BBC Expert Women Network and in 2022 was appointed to the Civil Justice Council as member for information architecture and econometrics. Her writing on access to justice and data governance has been published in the legal and national press.

Profile image of Professor Sarah Green

Professor Sarah Green was appointed as Law Commissioner for Commercial and Common law on 01 January 2020. She was previously Professor of Private Law at the University of Bristol.  Prior to that, she was Professor of the Law of Obligations at the University of Oxford, having been a lecturer at the University of Birmingham from 2001 – 2010.  Before embarking on her academic career, she was a software consultant at Accenture.  Professor Green has written books and articles on a variety of issues including virtual currencies, blockchain issues surrounding intermediated securities, smart contracts, sale of goods law as applicable to digitised assets, negligence and wage theft.

Professor Timothy Endicott

Professor Timothy Endicott is the Vinerian Professor of English Law. He writes on Constitutional and Administrative Law and Jurisprudence, with special interests in law and language and legal interpretation. After graduating with the AB in Classics and English from Harvard, he completed the MPhil in Comparative Philology in Oxford, studied Law at the University of Toronto, and practised as a litigation lawyer in Toronto. He completed the DPhil in Law in Oxford in 1998. He was a Fellow in Law at Balliol College from 1999 to 2020, and served as the Dean of the Faculty of Law for two terms, from 2007 to 2015. He is the author of Administrative Law, 5th ed (OUP 2021) and Vagueness in Law (OUP 2000).

Chaired by

Professor John Tasioulas

Professor John Tasioulas, the inaugural Director for the Institute for Ethics and AI, and Professor of Ethics and Legal Philosophy, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford. He was previously the inaugural Chair of Politics, Philosophy & Law and Director of the Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy & Law at The Dickson Poon School of Law, Kings College London. Professor Tasioulas has degrees in Law and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne, and a D.Phil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He was previously a Lecturer in Jurisprudence at the University of Glasgow, Reader in Moral and Legal Philosophy at the University of Oxford, where he taught from 1998-2010, and Quain Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London. He has also acted as a consultant on human rights for the World Bank and is a member of the International Advisory Board of the European Parliament's Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA). He has published widely in moral, legal, and political philosophy.