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What will happen when artificial intelligence and the internet meet the professions?

ucyow3c2 November 2015

pencil-iconWritten by Cathryn Evans (UCL Laws)

susskind-event-photoOn Thursday 22 October, UCL Honorary Professor, Richard Susskind OBE and his son Daniel Susskind, a lecturer in economics at Oxford, launched their new book, ‘The Future of the Professions’ which examines how technology is transforming the work of human experts.

The Susskinds believe that there are two possible futures for the professions: a reassuringly familiar one, with professionals utilising technology such as Skype or design software to work more efficiently, or a pessimistic future, where computers actively displace the work of people. They conclude that these two futures will run in parallel for some time, but that the second will dominate eventually and traditional professions will be dismantled.

“Why have the professions?” asked Daniel. In a print-based, industrial society, each profession curates and guards its own body of specialist knowledge, but this is no longer possible in a technology-based, Internet society where the traditional ‘gatekeeper’ role is dying out.

Citing examples from Harvard, where more people signed up in one year for its online courses than had actually attended the university in its nearly 300-year history, and Ebay, where 60 million disputes are resolved every year without the use of lawyers, Daniel explored whether, eventually, there will be any jobs left for the professions, referencing the recent Economist review of the Future of the Professions, which asked whether “Professor Dr Robot QC” would replace professionals before long.

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What is modern slavery?

news editor2 November 2012

Written by Neil Rodger, UCL Communications Manager

So, what is modern slavery? That was the question posed in a Lunch Hour Lecture given by Dr Virginia Mantouvalou (UCL Laws), Co-Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights.

Dr Mantouvalou takes the stance that forms of slavery exist in the UK and Europe today – particularly in the area that falls under the catch-all title of ‘domestic work’.

Domestic work can mean anything from care of children or the elderly, to cooking, cleaning and gardening. She explained that some of these domestic workers have their passports taken away and are often denied permission to leave the house.

Some even struggle to get enough food and water.

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Freedom of the press vs. privacy rights

Ruth Howells17 February 2012

The focus of the seventh UCL Laws/Bindmans debate, held on 8 February, would have struggled to be more topical against the backdrop of the ongoing Leveson Inquiry.

The Inquiry was set up to look at the practices and ethics of the press in the wake of Summer 2011’s phone-hacking scandal, which sent shockwaves through the UK media – the full repercussions of which are yet to play out.

The panel convened by UCL Laws and the law firm Bindmans to debate privacy and the media would have struggled to have a greater level of combined insight into the topic.

Media heavyweights

Tessa Jowell, Labour MP and Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, joined Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust, and Gill Phillips, Director of Editorial Legal Services at the Guardian. The fourth panel member was Max Mosley, former motorsport figure and focus of one of the most famous recent examples of a media-driven sex life exposé.

An audience of lawyers, law students and journalists gathered to hear what the panel had to say about the issues surrounding self or statutory regulation of the press, how the current system might be reformed and whether regulation is possible or desirable.

We’ve been here before

Lord Justice Leveson is not the first to have looked in detail at these issues. In the early 90s, the Calcuttt committee grappled with the topic, with David Mellor saying at the time that the press were “drinking in the last chance saloon.”

Some might say that they’re still there, steadfastly propping up the bar – resistant to any change and knowing that parliament will be unwilling to legislate when they risk association with oppressive regimes – especially when they have themselves been in the pockets of the media barons.

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The Triumph of Human Rights: Dream or Nightmare?

news editor2 February 2012

Claire Lougarre, UCL Laws PhD candidate, reports on ‘The Triumph of Human Rights: Dream or Nightmare?’, a UCL Lunch Hour Lecture held on 26 January. The talk was presented by Colm O’Cinneide (Reader, UCL Laws) and chaired by Michael Freeman (Professor, UCL Laws).

In 1945, the United Nations decided to provide a high level of protection to certain rights that it considered fundamental to human dignity, in response to the atrocities committed during the Second World War. This marked the start of human rights law.

This notion has since been stretched by academics, judges and the civil society to give rise to a greater protection of more and more human rights.

Colm O’Cinneide, Reader in Law with a considerable expertise in human rights, therefore, decided in his lecture to question whether the notion of human rights had been interpreted too extensively from its initial purpose.

And what perfect timing this was as, the previous day, David Cameron addressed in his speech to the Council of Europe the merits of human rights law, while criticising its extensive interpretation by the European Court of Human Rights.

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