Law for Computer Scientists and other folks (review)

Law for Computer Scientists (pubpub.org)

Recently, a colleague of mine has recommended me this book. At first, I thought it would be a bit like “Law for dummies”, but it turned out to be much better than I actually thought.

The book is about how we, as software engineers, should look at the legal systems. It poses more questions than it actually answers, but it provides a number of great examples.

I sincerely recommend this book. The following parts have captured my attention:

  1. Existence of different types of law and jurisdictions: national, international and supernational. Data and computer programs are perfect examples of different jurisdictions and the fact that different types of laws apply.
  2. What constitutes data, meta-data and sensitive data. In Chapter 5, the authors mention that we cannot process sensitive data very easily, e.g. data about religion, gender, etc. Then, how can we make the systems fair and unbiased if we cannot process this kind of data?
  3. Cybercrimes and how to deal with them. The author provides great examples of legislation that is supposed to help to fight cybercrime.

However, the best is always left for last and this book is no exception. The author provides a great discussion on the future of our legal systems. She does that by discussing the concept of personhood for AI or any other complex system. Although it sounds like a distant future, it is closer than we think. EU has already started to work on this kind of legislation.

Finally, I love the fact that the author brings in the three laws of robotics by Asimov – a real connection to computer science and software engineering.