Last week, Melinda Gates and Strive Masiyiwa spoke in Nairobi about their latest initiative, the Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development.
These top billionaires aim to bring together "diverse voices and perspectives to map the potential impacts of technology on jobs in developing countries and come up with practical proposals."
On Friday, January 26, Masiyiwa toured the Strathmore campus. As our conversation got more and more engaging, we came to the Policy Innovation Centre, a high-tech arbitration room sponsored by Microsoft, where exciting arbitrations, policy discussions and law drafting is taking place.
STRIVING FOR CHANGE
In that room, Masiyiwa had a short conversation with my colleague deans of law schools of Kenyan universities. Every law school was represented. The deans of the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, JKUAT, Mount Kenya, CUEA, Kisii, Nazarene and Daystar were present. Riara, Egerton and Kabarak were not in attendance but they had sent their comments beforehand.
We had all been discussing partnerships, collaboration, internationalisation as well as exchanging ideas and suggestions that could help enrich and improve the Fred Ojiambo report on legal education status and reforms.
As we walked out of the room, towards the Pathways for Prosperity event, Masiyiwa remarked that untold changes will happen in law with the advent of Artificial Intelligence. He added, "If we thought that the mobile phone and the internet were great inventions, just you wait to witness Artificial Intelligence, AI".
In today's world, innovation is no longer close at hand, but in your very hands. From your own office, couch, kitchen, kiosk or matatu, you have got the power to change the way the world functions.
THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE
Change brings unexpected challenges. Law, ethics and morality cannot be the ones holding change back. On the contrary, they must be tools for sustainable change.
Not every change is good. Ethics analyses change through moral lenses, and calls on law to direct that change towards the common good of humanity.
Law points the direction to follow, and the courts ensure we keep that course. Part of the great challenge of today's justice system is that the world has changed, but courts have not. In this regard, we lawyers are guilty as charged, for we hang on to this old outdated court system just like traditional taxi drivers fought the unavoidable change Uber brought to our lives.
OLD COURTS MUST CHANGE
Courts, as we know them today, must disappear. We cannot continue having the same systems, procedures and papers we used to have a thousand years ago.
I dream of the courts of the future, where cases could be resolved within a few weeks or even days. Judges, advocates and witnesses could work and present documents and evidence through virtual systems, for registries will be in the Cloud. All direct contact that encourages corruption would be restricted and properly audited.
I dream with the end of papers, dusty registries, personal appearances, cash transactions and language barriers. Microsoft, Google and Apple are competing to create simultaneous translation systems via Skype, Hangout and Facetime.
This dream is close at hand; it is not impossible, and it is already happening at the Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA) in Dubai.
DUBAI'S COURTS OF THE FUTURE
DRA started as a pilot project in 2004. The pilot was so successful and attracted so many investors to Dubai that in 2014, Dubai's ruler, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, harmonised the laws to bring these courts fully into the judicial system.
DRA delivers justice to investors in the Middle East. Its divisions work in partnership to provide businesses with unparalleled choice about how to resolve their commercial disputes, to develop legal talent and to protect individuals investing or living in Dubai.
DRA's mission statement says, "Together, the divisions of the DRA are helping to support the Dubai Plan 2021, Expo 2020 & UAE Vision 2021 to make the UAE the Preferred Place to Live, Work & Visit." Microsoft has been a big player in this dream.
We are approaching the world of artificial intelligence (AI). The world is changing; law will change; lawyers must change. Unimaginable and exciting challenges are ahead of us. 'I see something beautiful on the horizon.'
WHOM DO I RUN OVER?
In a small group discussion with exceedingly clever young future scholars and policymakers, we were conversing about development, law and ethics.
At some point, one of the students, Kimberly Mureithi, a third-year law student who had just won her second moot competition in two months, geared towards a dilemma she learnt from Harvard's professor Michael Sandel. The "trolley dilemma".
As Kimberly explained her point, three graduate assistants, Kasyoka Mutunga, Cecil Abungo and Grace Diida, immediately saw the connection between Sandel's dilemma and AI. We are inventing self-driving cars. There is an expensive award-winning brood mare (a female thoroughbred that is used for breeding) and an old man on the way. A collision is unavoidable... who should be hit?
The mare or the man? What a dilemma. What considerations will the coder take into consideration? Human dignity? Animal rights? Economic gains versus loses? What would be the cheaper option? Who is more financially viable?
VICTIMS OF TODAY'S UNCOMMON SENSE
What is the value of life and why? Whose life matters most? In today's confused world anything could happen. We have undermined common sense; this will shake and test the limits of our techie future.
Today's utilitarian world speaks of euthanasia as a sensible way out, elephant poaching as a crime, yet we eat cows, bulls, goats and chickens, and we pay no attention to the 'pigicidal' tendencies of bacon lovers.
We do jogging, weight lifting, drink carrot juice and eat healthy... so that we may die healthy. We are in search of a healthy death. A kind of 'I'm dying but I feel good' approach.
AI will open a Pandora's box; we must be prepared. Law must be an agent of change, not an obstacle to progress. Our outdated court system, laws and policies are not fit to face these challenges.
These uncommon problems will only be properly handled through good policies, good laws, and well-thought-out justice systems, founded on common sense for the common good.
Dr Franceschi is the dean of Strathmore Law School. Lfranceschi@strathmore.edu; Twitter: @lgfranceschi