Archive for technology

International Law, Science (Broadly Speaking) and Technology

Posted in General Thoughts and Comments with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2008 by jeremyleong

So far, posts here have been limited to international law’s relationship with mainly the social sciences (e.g. economics, sociology, political science, etc). Regretfully, we have neglected to mention international law’s relationship with other fields of science such as the natural sciences and applied sciences such as physics, mathematics.

 

It is regrettable because science and technology has to a large extent permeated international law creation. They have also affected abilities to comply as well as change preferences for compliance or commitment to international law. There have been plenty of occasions where international law has been rendered irrelevant by scientific discovery and technological advancement and there are plenty of occasions where scientific discovery and technological advancement have provided sufficient incentives for states to cooperate in creating new international law.

 

Space law is one example. The first human was sent into space in 1961. Thereafter, the short period from 1965 to 1979 saw a proliferation of treaties relating to delimiting property in outer space; rescuing astronauts; registration of satellites; liability for damage caused by space objects; and regulating activities on the moon. Another example relating to compliance to international obligations can be found in the EC-Computer Equipment case in the WTO where a dispute essentially arose over the tariff classification of LAN equipment before and after the “Internet boom”. Science’s integration into international law is very clear from the WTO SPS Agreement that provides that scientific basis is necessary before a state can invoke the provisions of the SPS Agreement to carry out prima facie WTO-inconsistent measures to protect plant, animal and human health. See generally, http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/exec/bradsmith/11-03-06InternationalLaw.mspx for an interesting speech by a SVP of Microsoft to ASIL on the relevance of technology to international law.

 

The interaction continues to this day. Contemporary issues like climate change, nuclear non-proliferation and the law on use of force are affected by technological advancements and scientific discoveries in the fields of clean energy, nuclear physics and military science. It seems the international law, at times, struggles to keep pace with the science.

 

Maybe a leaf can be taken from domestic law such as patent law and information technology law. Patent lawyers and information technology lawyers have embraced technology as part of their trade. (Just as international trade lawyers and competition lawyers have embraced economics are part of the same.)

 

I also look forward to more work on how technological methodologies permeate into international law. The “Science Studies” movement has already started to look at science from broader sociological/economic and philosophical context. See e.g. http://www.compilerpress.atfreeweb.com/Anno%20Ben%20David%20&%20Sullivan%20Sociology%20of%20Science%20ARS%201975.htm. I suspect that an examination which integrates law’s place in this may soon follow. This article I chanced upon entitled, “Law in a Shrinking World: The Interaction of Science and Technology on International Law” (http://works.bepress.com/joseph_w_dellapenna/11/) may be a good start.

 

Would love to hear the views of any technologists and scientists out there.

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