"Right now, the biggest problem facing law is training students and lawyers to understand the world in systems terms"

Interview with Michael Madison, Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who joined the EDHEC Augmented Law Institute as Affiliate Researcher in November 2021.

Written on 19 January 2022.


You might have heard his voice as host of the Future Law Podcast or read one of his articles on madisonian.net or postindustrial.com because Michael Madison is a prolific knowledge creator. Law Professor at the University of Pittsburg ( Pennsylvania), the Senior Scholar of Pitt Cyber (University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security) gets passionnate about law and technology, entrepreneurship, knowledge commons or football with the same commitment. No doubt that Michael will be an asset for the EDHEC Augmented Law Institute, the EDHEC initiative on Law Transformations, that he joined in November 2021 as Affiliate Researcher. We interviewed him.

YOU JOINED EDHEC AUGMENTED LAW INSTITUTE AS AFFILIATE RESEARCHER AT THE BEGINNING OF NOVEMBER 2021. COULD WE ASK WHAT MOTIVATED YOUR CHOICE?

My connection to EDHEC began with personal relationships, as new opportunities so often do. I look for ways to spend time with people who share my passions and goals. I have known Frank Fagan for several years, since he was a student at the University of Pittsburgh.  His research interests today overlap with mine, on intersections between law and artificial intelligence. He introduced me to Christophe Roquilly, who shares both my research interests and my interests in modernizing programs of legal education to meet the future needs of society, business, and governments. So EDHEC is home to some particularly stimulating ideas and people. And there is the opportunity, potentially, to visit Lille in the future. I’m a huge fan of football (the real football, not American football), and I know a lot about the recent ups and downs of LOSC.

COULD WE ASK ABOUT YOUR CURRENT RESEARCH? WHAT THEMES ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?

Most of my current research focuses on what my colleagues and I call knowledge commons. That focuses on institutions and governance. In practice, I look at systems where knowledge and information is shared in communal or collective settings, sometimes at small scales and sometimes at large scales.This includes contemporary cases, such as blockchain networks, mis-information and dis-information problems, and smart cities. It also includes historical cases, such as universities.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE INNOVATION IN LAW?

I don’t define innovation as such, because I find that definitions can limit and distract people from the important questions of problem solving.  Innovation itself is rarely a good goal.  The goal is identifying and solving problems – both big problems and small problems – using both existing knowledge and new knowledge. Right now, the biggest problem facing law is training students, lawyers, and others to understand the world in systems terms, rather than only in terms of individual roles and responsibilities.  When we imagine the weaknesses and strengths of technology systems and law, we have to imagine those as elements of systems.

DO YOU THINK LAW CAN HELP TO FACE CHALLENGES OF THE 21st CENTURY (IA and digital, climate and sanitary risks..etc)?

Law is an inescapable part of large scale problem solving in the 21st century, but that’s because law has done its share of creating those problems, too.  We can’t move forward without understanding how we got here.  To a significant degree, whether we are talking about climate or automation, law brought us here.  So law has to be part of the conversation, looking ahead.

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