Technological advancement is travelling at an exponential rate with a trajectory which is substantially affecting our everyday lives, these new technologies and innovations are set to become intrinsic to our future and the way one interacts with the environment around them. The following paper looks at this subject matter and considers the merits attributable to the consideration of incorporating a greater ecological perspective to a new phase of policy and regulation, which is currently being developed by the executive and legislator to foster positive technological implementation across the United Kingdom.
Only over the last two decades have we seen the acceleration of technology which, in its comparison, would equate to the advancement of the entire previous century. Due to this acceleration in advancement and uptake in adoption across the global north, society is continuing to develop whilst the global south continues to be mined and pillaged for its natural minerals and resources.From this divide and demand, the global north has to work on a greater ecological cooperation with the global south, ensuring that the mining of minerals to the use of everyday technologies is ethical, sustainable and positively ecological. 
The above is the usual discourse when we consider the changes to the environment with technologies which require minerals and natural resources like cobalt to develop.However, this paper looks at a different angle to technologies environmental effects. There has been some excellent investigation and studies already by our allies across the Atlantic at The National Academy of Engineering, looking into the flows of materials and energy in industries and consumer activities including their effects on social factors.This is an interim highlight to the question of whether there is merit in incorporating a new, greater approach of ecology in policy and regulation with respect to artificial intelligence and blockchain.
In assessing the validity of this question, we look to apply the methodology of speculative entropy,viewing entropy as the theory of ‘complexity’ is useful in this proposed approach due to its account for micro and macro behaviour and how individuals interact with the environment around one’s person. Taking this into account for the notion of order and disorder and the measurement of such function and dysfunction. The speculative element allows for the unpredictability and uncertainty attached to ever-advancing technology, its morphing ability and its relationship with the environment.
Speculative Entropy and Negative Entropy
The approach of this paper is applying the methodology of entropy which
“[…]is suggested that entropy as the basis of a theory of ‘complexity’, and its usefulness in terms of understanding systems of law, ecosystems and the human and non-human relationships between them at the same time[…]”
Consider the two core elements subject to this paper – technology and regulation – and this methodology, if technology is referenced as entropy and regulation as negative entropy, we have respectfully both chaos and order.The proposed objective of this paper is seeking to highlight the potential for new environmental considerations at the precise transition between chaos and order. Technological advancement disrupts order due to its updated application in modern contexts or a fundamental lack of scope to cater and accommodate for creators and consumers.Order then reforms and renews, and at coming to this junction, it is proposed that a new element of ecological consideration should be considered and applied in establishing the new national and global order to the chaos of technology. The speculative nature enables this approach as this methodology is “[…] at the heart of environmental law education, allowing the dynamic, chaotic, unknowable and unfathomable nature of law and nature to be taught as an ontological tool […].”
This new and greater consideration is proposed to carry merit as humankind has not seen the capabilities of these technologies before, and speculation can be our only window to the future ecology between man and machine. Since the digital revolution society has perpetually comprised a vast record of data which enables these technologies to come into formidable and optimal spotlight across fundamental pillars of infrastructure, democracy and human morality.
The Evolution of Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain
Focusing on two specific technologies most likely to shape the present and future ecology of society: artificial intelligence and blockchain. Unlike many may think, some of the advancing and high-growth technologies which are now part of the “hype” of the technology media have actually been around for decades. Here, we look at how these technologies are defined and how they have evolved over the past decades to ascend to the spot-light of cutting-edge innovation and mainstream commercialisation.
Artificial intelligence is, arguably, the technology which is advancing the most in the 21stcentury with its applications expanding into every conceivable sector and industry. Each one of which could revolutionise and disrupt the traditional business model in current operation.
What is Artificial Intelligence? What do we consider artificial intelligence to be? The Engineering and Physical Science Research Council(EPSRC) uses the following description:
“Artificial Intelligence technologies aim to reproduce or surpass abilities (in computational systems) that would require ‘intelligence’ if humans were to preform them. These include: learning and adaption; sensory understanding and interaction; reasoning and planning; optimisation of procedures and parameters; autonomy; creativity; and extracting knowledge and predictions from large, diverse digital data.”
Taking this modern description of artificial intelligence and taking it back to the times of the second world war, Alan Turning proposed the ‘universal Turning machine’, this machine befitting to the above description enabled him to break the cipher on, what was believed to be, an unbreakable communications device used by the Germans called Enigma. This single achievement is said to have assisted the British in winning the second world war and prevent further deaths and casualties in the millions. Alan Turning later published a paper in the 1950’s titled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” introducing the Turing Test as a means of operationalising a test to determine true artificial intelligence.
The above is one of many examples which demonstrate how technologies can change the environment directly, and the gargantuan impact it can have on organisms which populate our world.
Now taking a hyper-speed jump to the present artificial intelligence applications and the use of analytical data in enabling applications which can save lives, enable access and increase productivity. Applying this technology on a broad consumer scale such as the highly publicised and demanded IPhone X which now includes a ‘bionic chip’ with machine learning capabilities.One of its applications is taking note of images stored on the device to improve the accuracy of the new ‘facial recognition’ security feature. Besides the fact that this brings a new sophistication to biometrics, it shows how artificial intelligence has already been implemented and put into the hands of tens of millions of Apple customers.
Blockchain, a devolved core system stemming from cryptocurrency, is one of the advancing technologies which is relatively new. This mechanism has been applied to cryptocurrencies over the past decade creating a market in the tens of billions; blockchain is beginning to be applied to finance, energy and e-commerce applications.
What is blockchain?
Blockchain is the core and fundamental backbone of cryptocurrency and a range of other applications. Blockchain is not cryptocurrency itself, but the mechanism which is utilised to make cryptocurrency work.
Taking a ledger which maintains and records all transactions, visualise this digitally, this ledger is what holds ‘blocks’ these blocks record the source, destination and date of a transaction. When a transaction takes place, an equation is generated called a ‘hash’ which is cryptographically-protected, this equation is solved by a range of computers and these computers are part of a larger network which forms the blockchain facility known as a ‘peer-to-peer’ network. Each individual computer is considered a ‘miner’; these miners attempt to solve the equation to validate the transaction which has been purported to take place. If the miners solve this equation, the transaction is confirmed and added to the ledger as a ‘block’. The miners are subsequently rewarded for their contribution to solving the equation.
The abovementioned process uses cryptography as part of a network to ensure transactions are real and verified. The ledger is then updated and distributed across the network creating a completely decentralised system from any one individual or institution.
This mechanism for crypto-transactions is now becoming more accessible and applicable to applications beyond currency. Enterprises are now comprising their own ‘smart contracts’ which codify clauses and provisions and verifies the components and parties to the contract; purportedly providing a more robust, accessible and efficient method of contracting. This technology could certainly prove desirable in the area of international trade with volume and high-value transactions dependent on bona fide documents.
Ecology and Technology
We have considered and now understood the technologies which are the subject of this paper. Now, how do these technologies apply to and operate with ecology? Ecology is the study of the relationship(s) between different organisms and in their corresponding environments. These technologies are both shaping the way we as humans perceive and interact with each other, the environment around us and our individual understanding of organisms.
Key examples of how technology is interacting with ecology are provided across the globe, in 2014 the city of Chongqing, China provided its citizens with a “cellphone lane” due to the continuous safety issue posed by individuals walking to work looking at their mobile phones and not where they were going. In the Netherlands, the makers of the augmented reality app Pokémon Go have been taken to court for failing to prevent or remove its players from entering protected beaches or conservation sites.And, most recently, we have seen the international community seek to utilise an instrument of international law to prevent the development and use of ‘killer robots’ for military purposes.An example of not only how we as technology-dependent humans interact or immerse in technology, but also how the law is being used to protect the environment when such technological interaction crosses the line.
In London, computer scientists from University College London have developed an artificial intelligence software which can use “patterns in highly complex decisions….to predict our taste in films, TV shows and music…” and its further development has enable it “…to weight up legal evidence and moral questions of right and wrong…” to predict trial outcomes accurately.This provides a mathematical algorithm for how we determine right and wrong and how an individual is likely to be convicted of wrongdoing or whether they should be released in accordance with laws of evidence, morality and fact. These examples provide foresight to the capabilities of the future and the growing pace of technology.
The diagram below provides a stage-by-stage basis in which the spectrum of environmental events occurs in the establishment of technological innovations. Each stage can glean multiple legislative, regulatory or governance requirements which are active and appropriate to sustain the effects of its occurrence with ecological elements directly or indirectly identifiable. An example would be the innovation of ‘fracking’, this is a new method of mining for natural resources such as gas in areas of high-density. Fracking is a new innovation and method, was not expressly referenced in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016, however, it was determined that it came under a blanket provision for such mining activities. This meant that should a company wish to conduct fracking in England and Wales they would require approval from the local authority.Fracking is a key example of stage 1 of the diagram, as it concerns the excavation in one method or another of minerals or natural resources.
Many examples can be provided for the below stages of succession, such as pollution regulations for manufacturers or emissions restrictions on transportation. This paper, however, is focused on a later stage which is at its climax of ecological concern.
Kinetic Result (stage 6), covers the degree and effect of the use, adoption, integration, dependence and societal impact of innovations. An example of considering and campaigning for a change in perspective at the Kinetic Result stage is the Sky News Ocean Rescue campaign and research.The following takes the same approach but for the purposes of this paper, will look to products and services which include or utilise one or more of the technologies previously mentioned.
Spectrum of Ecological Succession in Innovation
Stage 1 – Excavation of Minerals / Components
Stage 2 – Transportation of Minerals / Components
Stage 3 – Manufacture of Product
Stage 4 – Delivery of Product
Stage 5 – Sale of Product
Stage 6 – Kinetic Result
Diagram – 1.0
One such consideration prior to expansion on stage 6 is that the deliberation, and critical review of these technologies will be speculative in its approach, enhancing the use of the methodology of speculative entropy. This is because, although the technologies have been around for some time, the development, commercialisation and adoption take a significant amount of time to compile adequate data sets to representatively analyse.
Ecology and Artificial Intelligence
Starting with artificial intelligence, the immediate example of the capabilities of artificial intelligence of our time is autonomous vehicles. These are vehicles which can drive passengers from A to B compliant with the ‘rules of the road’ without the need for a driver to do anything, autonomous vehicles are likely to be the innovation of 2018 and will start featuring on the roads in the UK in the coming years.
Multiple providers are innovating and competing to be the first to market, and we have already seen models which have a lower autonomy level available to purchase.As the commercialisation and adoption of these vehicles grows, what are, or could the kinetic result be from its use and integration. Use of driverless cars could see a new tier of dependence and integration with traditional transport, a fundamental reason for the development of autonomous vehicles is removing the need for a human driver. This necessary component is the reason we pay so much for a taxi, and removing this cost, despite the potential loss of jobs, will increase the consumer-economic appeal of private transport leading, most likely, to increased usage by the everyday city goer. This could have an overall impact on the ecology of humans and machines in the way we move and interact between physical spaces, as well as the trust and faith we place in autonomous machines to safeguard our lives. The pioneering of autonomous vehicles is also not just limited to cars; autonomous shipping vessels are currently being piloted for commercial use,flying drones are soon to be available in Dubai, United Arab Emiratesand new scientific methods of superfast autonomous transportation are to begin manufacture.
In this consideration of transport and a smart society, I joined a working group meeting by the Digital Policy Alliance in November 2017 at the Palace of Westminster where MPs and industry leaders discussed the concerns from the use of artificial intelligence in autonomous vehicles and ‘ride-hailing’ applications. This working group is part of many ongoing parliamentary, governmental and interdepartmental groups and discussions which are considering the impact on western society.Seeking to bring order to an area which needs more clarity in moral, ethical, legal and regulatory requirements and necessities.
Reviewing the proposed abilities and designs of autonomous vehicles from an ecological perspective, viewing autonomous vehicles as chaos and regulating these vehicles as order, it can be determined that the interaction between the vehicle and the humans both in and outside the vehicle would change.It is predicted that this change will relate to humans perspective of and interaction with their vehicle, the vehicle with the physical environment around it and humans interacting with each other. This could be both positiveand detrimental.There is also the gratuitous element of ecology between man and machine which can be overlooked by the narrow endeavour of developing autonomous vehicles.
When considering the potential regulation and consequential policy on autonomous vehicles, a key thread of ecological consideration is merited. Recreational autonomous vehicles are an excellent candidate to demonstrate this statement, we as humans utilise our vehicles for work and leisure with a varying degree of pride and connection with such mechanical machines; humans also interact with each other through human-created consensus arising from tradition, experience, norms and values. An example of this reference would be a driver flashing their front-lights to indicate to a fellow road user to proceed or ‘go-ahead’; or raising your hand to say thank you. This intelligence of humans is unwrittenand requires an understanding of human habit, consensus and norms, which is unlikely to be sought or composited into a probabilistic algorithm of any attention-worthy abilities.
Ecology, in this varying and speculative view, can border between the notion and consideration of ethics in innovation and the capability to innovate. In this example of applied artificial intelligence, ecology clearly should be a consideration and have some greater sense of attribution to the discussion of regulation and policy in the UKand in a wider global context.
Considering both ecology and ethics in artificial intelligence, another innovation also raises concern. Sex robots. As I came to the conclusion to include this ethical nightmare, I indeed paused on the consideration of what a relative or colleague might think of my web history from the research undertaken to consider sex robots critically. I ultimately entrusted in any future judgement and chose to include this topic.
Movie enthusiasts or technology geeks will have noticed the repetitive inclusion of sex robots in futuristic movies such as Total Recall or Ex Machina. As mentioned above, humans take a passion, interest and enter into a relationship with machinery notably cars and phones. So why can’t humans enter into sexual relationships with robots? The degree of ecological connection with sex and sexual orientation is not explored in this paper, but it is noted that the need to commit to open research in the context of environmental law and sexuality has been highlighted.
Sex robots are certainly going to enter the consumer market over the next few years,and they are only going to increase in functionality and capability with anthropomorphisation playing a crucial factor in its purported desirability (the Turing Test will certainly apply here, although not in the context Alan Turing most probably thought it would). Humans have not previously sought to intentionally simulate sex with machines on a commercial-scale, hence the inability to escalate relationships to sexual-intimacy. Arriving at this capability, the ethical question arises should we create and sell sex robots? And, if so, how far should faith and dependence go with machines? Could we one day be advocating a ‘#metoo’ campaign for sexual assault against robots, or celebrate a civil partnership between humans and machines?
The above questions are one of the reasons ethics and regulation are a feature in the majority of debates on artificial intelligence.The result of these debates will determine the depth of relationships between humans and machines. It is also the reason lawyers are beginning to weigh in on the debate with legislation and international agreements likely to take place in the coming years. This legislative action is likely because of the inherent chaos which technology brings in respect to both legal instruments and social norms and values. The fast-pace nature of technology at present with funding and expertise ready to start solving endemic and global problemsis likely to cause conflict with the speed of ethical discussions and implementation. In determining the scope of limitations, requirements, reason and judgement in working with artificial intelligence, we as humans must consider how such an application will change the relationship organisms and machines have with the environment around them and with each other.
In coming to this junction, where the chaos of technology is climaxing, and regulation is being consideredit is clear by the advancement of human imagination that ecology is pivotal in striking a better ethical world. We will continue to see nations developing applications of artificial intelligence and robotics in roles which require trust, confidence, faith, judgement and empathy.Determining the extent of human relationships with these machines will not be a national or artificial task but a global and human one.
Ecology and Blockchain
Turning to Blockchain and cryptography, the computation of a mathematical methodology which renders the mechanism of blockchain. Blockchain is an autonomous method of secure verification, validation and storage of transactions, most commonly known for its application to cryptocurrency. Blockchain is one of the technologies subject to this paper which has had mass calls for regulation, because of its far-reaching and anonymous abilities in global financial crime. There are also ethical and legal issues in utilising third-party’s computing power for mining cryptocurrency and supporting providers who could be facilitating crime. Regulation and policy henceforth is being critically considered by financial and governmental bodies across the globe.
So, why have I included a cryptographic mechanism into a paper considering the merits of ecology in policy and regulation? Cryptocurrency has exploded over the last decade, establishing a market worth tens of billions globally, it is the quintessential stopping point to demonstrate the chaos and threat which technology can pose without regulation.This is because the method of conducting transactions shapes the way people interact with one another and with machines. Cryptocurrency has continued to utilise the underlying technology of blockchain to redefine the way our money is universally managed, moving from the established banking institutions to a democratic peer-to-peer network of machines. An interesting use of words by Agustín Carstens, Head of the Bank for International Settlements, in describing cryptocurrency as “a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster”.This highlights the unforeseen impact on the environment with data mining of cryptocurrencies to consume more energy than all the homes on Iceland combined.
An interesting legal note with regard to cryptocurrency is that it is considered a ‘thing in action’ and so recovery can only be via a claim or enforcement by an action and not by taking physical possession. This has also motivated questions of whether virtual currency is property, with the IRS in the United States classifying virtual currency as property for tax purposes.This highlights the potentially far-reaching consequences of this crypto-mechanism for the legal profession with its application, creation and implementation of commercial transactions and traditional contracts.
Throughout my research and work in these technologies, I previously attended a three-day event in October 2017hosted by Mattereumand Digital Catapult. Mattereum is a blockchain-based business operating in the world of smart contracts with work undertaken on internationally enforceable data trading contracts with Singapore-based Ocean Protocol Foundation. From this and many other events, papers and articles, an abundant lack of ecological thinking is evident amongst innovators and developers. The rush to utilising blockchain in multiple industries on a global scale has left ecological considerations behind to ultimately be first to market. This is confirmed in many discussions with or questions put to developers at events, these developers could create initial smart-contract products but could not provide the five legal pillars which establish a binding contract nor distinguish the key legal differential element between our common-law jurisdiction and others. This is vital if the architecture and composition of smart contracts are to be intelligent, trusted and binding.
The effect of blockchain has and will continue to disrupt the way we transact and therefore the way we interact. A utopian principle of cryptocurrency was to bring democracy to a universal currency free from institutional oversight and control; this was an admiral dream of currency with a distinct ecological element evident. However, globalisation and anonymity of transactions enables and protects international crime without the ability to identify individuals who are making transactions with cryptocurrency. This will continue to be a concern as its crime-prevention capabilities will, for the moment, be inferior to the pre-existing financial institutions.
This assertion is reflected in the proposed changes in EU regulation with the European Commission setting a directive to the European Parliament and European Council to make amendments to Directive 2015/849 and Directive 2009/101/EC to ‘further step up the fight against the financing of terrorism’.Cryptocurrency is the most obvious example of the laws of complexity and methodology in which this paper applies, as is the abovementioned regulation an example of the order which is provided in our governing bodies response.
This is evident particularly in the global north, our ecology with technology and one another. Cryptocurrency is another provider of the drive towards a cashless societyand this results in behavioural changes within society itself, whether it is donating to charity,children making savingsor simply going to a public loocash is becoming a thing of the past. For society to evolve and financial institutions to profit, digital wallets and currency is only going to become something we are increasingly dependent on. Regulators will certainly be challenged with cryptocurrency and financial technology being an area of the highest growth and investment, new cryptocurrency providers will only multiply, and without order, the unscrupulous will too gain from the universal and anonymous ability to conduct global transactions.
Ecology is interconnected with everything we do, but more importantly, it should be a merited consideration in everything we innovate. As this is what will determine how and who we act and interact with in the future. Although automation is certainly increasing and our ability to enable technology to complete more complex tasks is apparent, it is ultimately humans that design, programme, release and facilitate these advancements. It will be for humans to shape innovation, even if we utilise technology to do so.
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