A Novel Approach to Teaching Technology Law

The year is 2036. Professor Christine Jacobs teaches the law of AI at a Midwestern law school, while her ex-boyfriend, Paul Gantt and his college buddy Bart manage Eidya, a technology company in pursuit of “transhumanism,” whereby humans can transfer their personalities into lookalike humanoid robots using personal data. The concept has captured the attention of the US military, just as the UN begins to work on a new international treaty on the use of robots in war. Dr. Jacobs is called upon to provide advice to Eidya and the U.S. military as she teaches her classes, in which she discusses the nature of humanity in the age of AI, humanoid robots, and cyborgs, all while Gantt prepares the world for what’s next.

Forever: A Legal Sci-Fi Story, is a “new type of fiction,” says author Daniel Gervais, Milton R. Underwood Chair in Law and Director of the Vanderbilt Intellectual Property Program. The AI law expert wrote the book to teach technology law. While he notes that fiction has been used to teach technology law, Forever is, to his knowledge, the first full-length work designed to help readers (especially students) think about the legal issues that arise from AI and how governments and society should think about a future where robots can replace people.

“Fiction can be a good platform for teaching,” he says. He notes that college students have been living in a world where the distinction between reality and fiction has grown increasingly blurred – “it’s entirely natural to post a pic that they modify with AI” – and so it stands to reason that a novel like Forever could be an effective tool for addressing a technological phenomenon with existential near-term implications.

The technological advancements described in the novel are based on Gervais’ own understanding of AI’s future, and on conversations with experts and journalists in the field. “This isn’t Star Trek,” he says, “it’s all stuff that could happen in the next 10-12 years.”

While Gervais hopes Forever will be a book that students will enjoy using to address important questions of AI and the law, he hopes the audience expands beyond the classroom, to “anyone who’s thinking about the ethics and the future of AI.”

Forever: A Legal Sci-Fi Story, is published by Anthem Press and available through multiple retailers.