Marian Serna

Lessons From The World Legal Summit For Startups

published Aug 5, 2019

Nothing in this article is intended to be considered legal advice. All contents and opinions belong exclusively to the author and do not reflect the opinions of her employer(s).

Last week the World Legal Summit took place in several cities across the globe. I had the opportunity to attend the event here in Toronto. Many bright minds from different industries congregated to think about what’s putting a halt to technological advances. It was interesting to see how people in the technology spectrum have a similar idea about regulations being a problem when it comes to advancing technology or using it to solve common business issues.

But, why does this matter? As humans we have a very curious mind. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain pose different challenges to societies; therefore, we are constantly trying to find a purpose for these technologies, trying to leverage their best use cases and, with that, different challenges arise; some of those challenges come from the legal field.

In this version of the summit, some relevant topics were addressed:

  • The uses of blockchain from different perspectives
  • Privacy matters
  • Autonomous machines
  • A discussion on robot rights

Common Thoughts

  • The current system excludes the less privileged sectors of the population;
  • Digital identity is very much about control but exercising that control is costly for financial institutions;
  • People tend to think that blockchain is a technology built only for the financial system but it has many different uses beyond that area. Blockchain may be the solution to several common issues faced by many companies such as authentication for technologists or client intake for legal professionals; this technology can be leveraged to protect the privacy rights of individuals but it is likely that it would be extremely hard to use for many people;
  • It is unrealistic to expect that the government would switch from a centralized to a decentralized approach for managing data in a reasonable period of time;
  • The government should move away from a reactionary approach to regulation and focus on regulating technology matters based on outputs coming from a higher engagement with industry stakeholders;
  • Many regulators lack the education they need to determine the appropriate way to regulate technology;
  • The amount of data collected by autonomous machines keeps growing and individuals need control over that data;
  • Current liability for autonomous machines lies too much on the customer, manufacturers should assume a higher level of responsibility for their products;
  • Robots are not subject of rights.

Personally, I would say that the main highlight of this event was the fact that we are aware that the way Canada regulates technology needs to change; the system needs to change in such a way that it is proactive and not reactive so that regulations are reasonable and address the actual needs of the different actors. Intentions are good, but the process is not efficient.


In summary, what this means for small businesses is that regulations will likely present hindrances to their business processes which, in turn, means that money will have to be spent in complying with legal requirements that are outdated or that do not reflect the realities of the technological challenges faced by different industry sectors.