How advanced technologies could help international law

Published 24 October 2018

US army training Tanzania Rangers to combat poaching with the help of unmanned aerial vehicles. Image taken from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

In a new blog, Asser Institute researcher Dr Berenice Boutin discusses how advanced technologies and international law can benefit from each other.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain are prominent examples of new technologies that might revolutionise our lives. While the potentials and dangers of such ‘advanced technologies’ are still being explored, their relationship to international law remains unclear. In her blog, Berenice Boutin examines the interface between advanced technologies and international law. She argues that technology and international law can mutually benefit each other, but this requires addressing critical challenges.

Unprecedented opportunities
Advanced technologies offer unique opportunities for global governance. Dr Boutin believes that they “have the potential of providing new tools to implement and give effect to norms of international law”. For instance, advanced technologies can be used to monitor compliance with international law and investigate violations thereof. According to Berenice Boutin they could also assist in solving global problems, as “using AI to support law and policy-making could allow to uncover new solutions”.

Advanced technologies do not come without dangers though. Dr Boutin: “It is important to confront the critical challenges that they raise with regard to transparency, privacy, equality, and accountability.” International law and institutions can be powerful tools to address these issues by coordinating the development of private standards or by filling regulatory gaps.

Who is responsible?
Dr Boutin addresses further questions in her blog, such as who should bear responsibility for the use of AI? And should advanced technological systems be granted legal personality? Read her full blog on International Law Under Construction, the blog of the Groningen Journal of International Law.

Learn more?
The topic of advanced technologies and international law is a key concern of the Asser Institute’s Strategic Research Agenda ‘International and European Law as a Source of Trust in a hyper-connected World’. For academic director Prof. Janne Nijman the central questions is: “in our hyper-connected world, what role may AI and blockchain technologies have for the good in that they protect and safeguard legal and political institutions?” To find answers to this, and many related, questions the Asser Institute is organising a new Winter Academy on Artificial Intelligence and International Law. It will take place from 11 to 15 February 2019 and provide insights into the current and future issues raised by AI from the perspective of international law. More details and information on registration will soon be available on our website.