Law, Science and New Technologies

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Barbara Bottalico

(LAW MW Fellow 2014-2015)

Over time, science and technology have often been considered by part of the legal community as possible threats to our lives, suggesting the necessity of an exceptionalistic approach to the relationship between law, science and new technologies. From this perspective, new problems would require the creation of new rules and the rethinking of legal principles (e.g. genetic exceptionalism has been the belief that genetic information is special and deserving of greater considerations by law than any other form of data).

Even though it is undeniable that science and technology may pose new challenges to society, their relationships with the legal system are not rigid, and a case-by-case analysis in light of constitutional fundamental rights is in my opinion recommended, often excluding the necessity of new rules.

A multidisciplinary approach is very helpful to face this issue, especially considering that, in daily practice, contemporary lawyers need to face situations that are multidisciplinary by definition, such as evaluating scientific elements in a case they are working on, choosing the best scientific experts to consult, etc.

Over the past few years, the use of scientific and advanced technological tools in the legal setting has increased, especially in the field of neuroscience, artificial intelligence and robotics. The promotion of greater interdisciplinary interaction between scholars in law and scholars in neuroscience, artificial intelligence and robotics has been one of the main goals of my academic research since receiving my degree in Law in 2006.

My PhD research was focused on the study of the legal impact of the use of neuroscientific tools in clinical trials, with a focus on the right to personal liberty and fundamental rights protected by ECHR and the Italian and US Constitutions.

Thanks to the Max Weber Fellowship, which started in September 2014, and the tutorship of Prof. Dennis Patterson (legal expert and philosopher, author of several works on fundamental questions in law and neuroscience), I am now widening my research on neuroscience and law, to explore issues related to neuroenhancement and its possible legal consequences in various settings, such as in the workplace and in clinical trials.

In this light, I have also collaborated with the ECLT Centre (University of Pavia) to organize the Law & Neuroscience Winter School. Open to lawyers, philosophers and scientists, the school’s core activities are devoted to the intersection between law and neurosciences, in a comparative perspective. More information on the Winter School is available here.