Hildebrandt to speak on the relationship between normativity, law, and technology (26 June Paris & 29 June Birmingham)

On Monday 26 June, Hildebrandt will join a Round Table in Paris in the closing session of the Lecture Series ‘New Perspectives on Normativity: Joint lecture series on ‘International Law and Technology’, co-organised by Dr Andrea Leiter (University of Amsterdam) and Dr Delphine Dogot (Université Catholique Lille, Paris Campus). That same week, on 29 June, she will join the Conference on ‘Prereflective Agency’, organised at the University of Birmingham, by Prof. Sylvie Delacroix, who recently published her monograph on ‘Habitual Ethics’. Hildebrandt will join the session on ‘Moulding the infrastructure that moulds our habits’, meant to unearth the way that habits co-constitute our normative frameworks while simultaneously addressing the way habits are induced by way of technological infrastructures. 

Quoting from her short paper for the conference in Birmingham, Hildebrandt will discuss how: ‘In an era where tech platforms are framed as infrastructure it makes sense to enquire into the way that such infrastructure moulds our habits and thus induces specific normativities that are, in turn, generative of a specific type of agency. The idea of the Internet of Things and the onset of ‘cyberphysical infrastructures’ alludes to similar ways of nudging people towards behaviours without necessarily requiring their deliberate input. This type of infrastructure includes recommender systems, search engines, sensor technologies and robotics (e.g. connected cars), including general-purpose AI such as biometrics, facial recognition and large language models (such as ChatGPT). This infrastructural fabric of AI technologies creates an often surprisingly seamless onlife world that affords micro-moulding our habits between online and – seemingly – offline environments in ways that are hard to uncover. Legal protection by design is meant to contribute to the development and deployment of this infrastructure in ways that afford awareness, resistance and contestation of these dynamics mouldings, reinventing the checks and balances of the rule of law in the era of automated decision making.’ 

This nicely ties into the Roundtable in Paris on 26 June, where she will address how the technologies of cartography and printing press enabled the rise of contiguous states with internal and external sovereignty, inducing the specific normative landscapes of both international and national law. Here she will argue that contrary to received wisdom, it was international law that made possible national sovereign statehood, based on the non-intervention principle of external sovereignty, thus shaping the emerging normatively of modern positive law. Whereas received wisdom assumed that independent sovereign states preceded international law, seen as the result of consensus between states that were free to bind themselves to treaties or not, the mere idea of independent states was dependent on the rise of an international order that attributed such freedom to modern states, making their powers dependent on the mutually constitutive nature of internal and external sovereignty. Here she will highlight how the rise of global mobile ICIs (information and communication infrastructure) in the hands of very large tech companies has given rise to competing legal and non-legal normativities, with states seeking to impose extra-territorial jurisdiction and tech platforms imposing technical defaults that decide who connect with whom, what, how and when. 

Hildebrandt will build on her work on the interaction between legal and technological normativity, as published in e.g. this article in 2012 and in her book on ‘Smart Technologies and the End(s) of Law’.