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Introduction  Title:


Aim and research question: towards Ambient Law

What particularly interests us here is how an AmI world can incorporate core values that are key to the democratic constitutional state. In particular, it is questionable whether privacy and data protection, as well as non-discrimination, can be safeguarded in an AmI environment by the legal instruments that we know today. Rather than approaching this question by describing a bleak vision of AmI that despairs over the presumed demise of traditional legal principles – which is quite likely to lead to backward-looking conclusions to curb the development of AmI, we want to start from a different, more forward-looking perspective.

Let us simply suppose that Ambient Intelligence is a highly attractive vision of the future. It has an enormous potential to making our lives easier and more comfortable, and so, let us assume that the development of AmI should be cherished and stimulated. What, then, is the role of the law in developing the AmI architecture? Our aim in this report is to study how core constitutional values like privacy and non-discrimination can be safeguarded, while at the same time the development of AmI is fostered.

For such a combination of potentially clashing interests to be possible, we think that our conception of law should be brought a step forward. Law in its current embodiment – let us for simplicity’s sake call it ‘law in the books’ – is likely to fail in the face of AmI; it is highly doubtful that legal texts can be enforced in a world where the environment makes continuous, real-time, and autonomic decisions about the people moving in it. We use the concept of Ambient Law – a concept developed by Mireille Hildebrandt (2008) – as a key direction of thought for developing Ambient Intelligence. Ambient Law (AmL) denotes an integration of legal norms and the technologies these norms aim to regulate. Rather than relying on law in the books, the AmI world will need to rely on law embodied in technology itself.  

Ambient Law thus builds on concepts like ‘code as law’ (Lessig) and ‘value-embedded design’ (Nissenbaum), but it is new in that it claims that the norms embodied in technology should be constituted as legal norms. This implies, among other things, that their enactment should entail sufficient democratic legitimation, while their application must be contestable in a court of law. The research question that is central to this report can be formulated as follows:

can law as embodied in the future Ambient Intelligence architecture – Ambient Law – safeguard the core values of privacy and non-discrimination, while at the same time helping to realise the potential of Ambient Intelligence?  


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