Jeroen Plink (CEO, Clifford Chance Applied Solutions) and I recently attended the inaugural Clifford Chance Talking Tech Live conference in Berlin. The focus of the day was the legal and economic implications of new technologies and digital change. 

The take home message was one of pragmatic optimism. The future is bright as technology can positively impact humanity in many ways. We need to remain agile, open minded and align good values across societies and AI to achieve this. But we also need to change at the right pace, with the right considerations and with the right, dynamic regulatory framework that can support individuals and companies alike. 

There were too many insights for one blog post, but here are some of the highlights. 

Jeroen Ouwehand (Clifford Chance Senior Partner) and Claudia Milbradt (Clifford Chance Tech Group Partner) welcome the Clifford Chance Tech Group and clients to the day.

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AI as a new problem for applied ethics and policy makingOpening keynote delivered by Prof Dr Thomas Metzinger, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Adjunct Fellow at Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Study, Member of AI High-Level Expert Group nominated by the EU Commission.

AI and ethics is a new domain of research with vast implications. The three main predictions on the horizon which Metzinger covered included:

1. The job market (the closest predicted horizon) - in the future IP will be the decisive value that's generated and this will create new threats to social cohesion. Implications are huge; mass unemployment, widening of income gap, parallel societies and  the collapse of income tax - scary stuff! It has been predicted that 47% of the US jobs in high risk of being eliminated by 2030. 

2. Machine consciousness (furthest away) - will conscious machines be able to feel suffering in the future? The risk is that intelligent systems emerge that have both knowledge and feelings. This has legal and ethical implications. Not least, could this increase the amount of suffering in the universe. There is now political demand to not create (or fund ) this until 2050 when we know what we are doing. This is counter to a number of companies that are racing to achieve this first - rational egoism.  

3. The AI arms race (close to present) - for me this was the scariest immediate implication. Already this is having a big military impact. There are self driving drones already on the market that can react 100x faster than humans and have explosives, sensors and facial recognition cameras built in. The weapons can now make the decisions. Already 28 countries have banned this approach but it is still out there. 

So what do we do to mitigate or control these? Rational evidence based debates are hard to achieve and contaminated by industrial lobby and ideological contamination (ethics washing). 

Metzinger explained we need a dialogue between ethics and law. We need value alignment between human and machines. Applied ethics needs to to be optimized and we need to take an evidence base approach. 

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The future of mobility – from the road to the sky

Panel chaired by Thomas Voland (Clifford Chance Tech Group Partner), with Ingmar Dathe (Legal Advisor and Public Affairs Manager at MOIA, a subsidiary of Volkswagen Partners), Lukasz Gadowski (entrepreneur and Chairman of Volocopter) , Ling Ho, Dessislava Savova and Stephen Reese (Clifford Chance Tech Group Partners

The mobility sector is changing fundamentally. Climate change is key driver, along with continuing growth of urban areas. These changes bring ethical and legal implications. What does this mean for the future? A few comments on this question from the panelists are highlighted below.

Lukasz -"The future is bright! Long term tech is underestimated"  For example, a drone helicopter can be cheaper than a car and as quiet (or loud?!) as a bus. Fundamentally this will change how we connect our cities to the countryside. "A road in the air is a piece of software, not expensive infrastructure".

Ingmar: The future is largely dependent on us (society). How open are we to change and how far will we let our imaginations of the possible take us. We need to have the courage to develop new and challenging mobility solutions. "We need different solutions for different environments".

Dessislava: "The future of mobility is tomorrow and its a huge opportunity for society". There are regulatory challenges however. We need to find right balance between not stopping innovation but still providing trust for society. We need to combine soft with strict law to handle pace of change. 

Ling:  Singapore and China recognize they need to be agile with regulatory framework. They are open to changing regulation or testing regulation to accommodate testing of technologies. Balance and agility between innovation and regulation is key.

Stephen: "Mobility is running fast" and regulation related to it is both an enabler and a blocker. Digital drives efficiency and is removing some hurdles. IP is fitting around mobility and AI and data. IP regulation will likely develop further, driven largely by tax implications.  

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What legal challenges do companies face when using new technologies to implement new business models?

Panel chaired by Claudia Milbradt (Clifford Chance Tech Group Partner), with Clemens Heusch (Head of European Litigation at Nokia), Michael F. Spitz (CEO at main incubator, the R&D unit of Commerzbank), Frank H. Lutz (CEO at CRX Markets), Paul Landless, Megan Gordon and Josep Montefusco (Clifford Chance Tech Group Partners) 

There was a lively debate around this question. Frank H. Lutz summed it up nicely by describing the challenge of trying to improve existing processes and think ahead whilst doing this in today's regulatory environment. "It's a permanent judgement call". Should we invest into tech which regulators might not let us use in the future?

Other discussion themes included:

  • Becoming a digital company is tricky. You need to change mindsets first.
  • Open source is great for driving adoption and collaboration. But be warned, when using open source you still need to think about IP. Even parts of open source software can be patented. 
  • Banks, corporates and start-ups should be seen in the same way.
  • We need a European cloud provider asap!
  •  Every cyber control we have in place now can be erased by quantum computing. All personal data is already out there and constantly exposed. How do we build a cyber that balanced accessibility and cost with the business priorities? 
  • Competition law means companies are obliged to treat everyone equally, start-ups and big companies alike. If you're using patents or need licenses then get prepared to negotiate with tech companies and think carefully about what your business and your needs are.

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Operational excellence through document automation 

Presented by Jeroen Plink (CEO of Clifford Chance Applied Solutions) and Jennifer Paybody (Head of Commercial, i.e. yours truly) 

Jeroen and I discussed the benefits of document automation and what the future of document automation might look like. If anyone would like discuss this topic further (or legal tech general) please reach out directly to jennifer.paybody@cliffordchance.com

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Paving the way for fair competition – Spotify vs. Apple

Expert talk with Horacio Gutierrez (General Counsel at Spotify) and Thomas Vinje (Chairman of the Global Antitrust Group at Clifford Chance, who is currently advising Spotify in its complaint against Apple before the European Commission for anti-competitive conduct in the App Store)

This discussion centered around how Apple’s anti-competitive behaviour in the App Store affects both consumers and competitors.

Success for Spotify depends on frictionless channel for its consumers but we live in world where there is only a handful of channels to chose from. The market should determine what the correct price for the payment system should be - this is the fair and competitive way. 

The cost structure of music industry is really complicated and hard to make money from as margins are low. Competition law is essential to maintaining a vibrant market but because of the complexity you cannot just rely on it.

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Big Data, Big Competition headaches? 

Panel chaired by Thomas Vinje (Clifford Chance Tech Partner), Horacio Gutierrez (General Counsel at Spotify), Carel Maske, (Director Competition EMEA at Microsoft), Holger Temme (Head of Growth at Ververica Partners), Thomas Vinje, Luke Grubb, Micheal Dietrich and Ines Keitel (Clifford Chance Tech Group Partners) 

The new intersection of Competition and Data Law Competition regulators are now focused on data, data gathering and consumer protection like never before. How do companies navigate this complex new landscape? 

As one panelist put it from a consumer point of view, "it's difficult to expect people to gain control of something they haven't really had control of in the first place".

There are two conflicting general viewpoints:

1.  Data is ubiquitous, replicable and available from a variety of sources so conduct is not problematic. Technology is the competitive differentiatitor. 

2. Data and the aggregation of data is crucial to the ability to compete. 

My key takeaways from the talk reflect the dynamic topics throughout the day:

Ines Keitel - "There are only a few universal values when looking at international law. We need to look at this from a civil protection point of view." We need diversity to help regulate. We need to start training a diverse range of people.  If the people training or developing AI or using AI are not diverse we will have discrimination. There is a delta in capabilities in all areas. This issue goes way beyond the legal framework.

Thomas Vinje - "We are experiencing a technological revolution in terms of use of data at scale through development of machine learning techniques, aided by tools with computing power that is unprecedented. To be clear, we should be excited by that." There are vast benefits for drug treatments world hunger. The potential is terrific. 

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And on that positive note, that's a wrap.