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Dr Christopher Markou's picture


PhD (Cambridge), LLB (Manchester), B.A, M.A. (Toronto)
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow & Affiliated Lecturer


Leverhulme Research Project: 2018-2021: Lex Ex Machina: Artificial Intelligence & Legal Evolution

Lawyers, economists and technologists are forecasting fundamental changes to the legal system and provision of legal services. Technological advancements, globalisation and the emergence of alternative legal service providers are contributing to a growing sense of destabilisation and uncertainty about the future of the legal practice, education and the conceptual foundations of the law itself. It seems that the knowledge and expertise of lawyers and judges is now at stake; with the burgeoning LegalTech industry mapping out what legal processes—and implicitly: legal concepts—might be amenable to proprietary interpretation and automation. With algorithmic decision systems seeping into more aspects of public and private sector contexts--doing legal 'work' more cheaply, quickly and effectively than humans--some suggest that the law is approaching a 'legal singularity': a hypothetical point at which the functional capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) vastly surpasses those of human lawyers and judges. But what does this mean for the future of law and the role of human decision-making? 

One consequence of digitalisation, AI and Machine Learning (ML) is that it has made previously tacit and conventional knowledge encodable and computable. This process is, however, not altogether new. A similar thing occurred, for example, in the transformation of the tacit knowledge of the silk weavers’ guild into a mechanised process thanks to the invention of the Jacquard loom in the early years of the last industrial revolution. When applied both to adjudication and lawmaking, algorithms promise powerful increases in speed and accuracy in legal decision-making, perhaps also eliminating the biases that can permeate human judgment. Furthermore, using ML to automate lawmaking and enforcement might prove especially useful, even essential, for overseeing automated private-sector activity, such as high-speed securities trading. According to some optimistic appraisals, there is no aspect of lawmaking and adjudication that cannot be improved upon or replaced by machines. 

Despite these apparent advantages, the spectre of 'rule by algorithm' has begun to raise alarm. Algorithmic adjudication and lawmaking imply a loss of autonomy and control over self-government. If the law was nothing more than an elaborate series of rules than perhaps many aspects of it would be amenable to mathemistation and automation. However, law seems to entail more than that, and there might be some irreducible quality to social facts, legal concepts and processes that cannot be imputed computationally, or at least not completely. If this is so, the question becomes: are there limits to the computability of legal processes and concepts? Are there contexts where computers should not be trusted to make consequential decisions, and thus prohibited entirely? How do we identify, define and justify what those contexts are when the allure of ever-greater efficiency is hard for governments and courts to resist?

The answer to these question is profoundly consequential for the growth of the LegalTech industry and the shift towards an increasingly algorithmic and computational legal system. Would such a system really be more fair, equitable or accessible? Or simply one where the 'unquestionable effectiveness of mathematics' is used to legitimise and entrench algorithmic authority in society? The replacement of human juridical reasoning with computation risks undermining the legal system as one of the principal institutions of a liberal-democratic order. As such, the line between 'improvement' and 'replacement' cannot be drawn until the consequences of redrawing it haphazardly are clarified. This research project is an attempt to explore and clarify those consequences for the future of law as a social institution.

General Research Interests

- Societal Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

- Computability of Law/Legal Norms

- Regulation of AI and Emerging Technologies

- LegalTech/GovTech

- 'Future of Law' and Legal Education

- AI Governance and Industrial Strategy

- Systems Theory

- Chaos/Complexity Theory


    • Leverhulme Trust, Early Career Fellowship, 2018-2021
    • Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship, 2014-2018
    • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Doctoral Scholarship (Offered), 2014-2018
    • Programme in European Private Law (PEPP), Postgraduate Scholarship, 2016-2017
    • Wright Rogers Scholarship, The University of Cambridge, 2014-2017
    • Faculty of Law Bursary, The University of Cambridge, 2014-2017


    • Dickson Poon School of Law, Kings College London, 'Artificial Intelligence, Law and Society' (LLM), Course Director, 2019-Current
    • Faculty of Law, The University of Cambridge, 'Economics of Law and Regulation (LLM), Affiliated Lecturer, 2018-Current
    • Faculty of Law, The University of Cambridge, 'Economics of Law and Regulation' (LLM), Lecturer, 2018
    • Department of Land Economy, The University of Cambridge, 'Legal Methods (Paper 5)', Lecturer & Supervisor, 2018
    • Department of Land Economy, The University of Cambridge, 'Law and Economics (Paper 12)', Affiliated Lecturer & Supervisor, 2017

    Professional Associations

    • Legal Expert Committee, Responsible Robotics
    • Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)

    CV / Biography


    • Lex Ex Machina: The Rule of Technology in a Post-Human Future (forthcoming 2020)


    Book Chapters

    • 'Governance by Numbers When Numbers Don’t Lie: The Cybernetic Path of the Law Towards Legal Singularity' in M Tinnirello and T Lozano (eds) The Global Politics of Artificial Intelligence (CRC Press 2019)
    • 'Nineteen Eighty-Four's Religion' (with Professor James Crossley) in E Di Nucci and S Storrie (eds) 1984 and Philosophy (Open Court 2018)

    Selected Media

    Selected Papers/Keynotes/Panels

    • 'Lex Ex Machina: AI, Labour and the Automation of Human Dignity'  International Employment Congress, San Sebastián, Spain, 21 October 2019
    • 'Lex Ex Machina: Should AI replace judges and lawyers?'' Cambridge Festival of Ideas, Old Divinity School, St John's College, University of Cambridge, 18 October 2019
    • 'Technology, Society & Democracy' (w/ Serj Tankian, Evegeny Morozov, Eric Brinde & Matthew Feeney)   World Congress on Information Technology 2019, Yerevan, Armenia, 10 October 2019 
    • 'Of Robot Judges and Referees', New Trends in the Common Law, Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, London, 2 September 2019
    • 'The Algorithmic Economy And The Law in 21st Century Digital Capitalism' Regulating for Decent Work Conference, International Labour Organisation, Geneva, 8-10 July 2019
    • 'Lex Ex Machina: The Limit's of Law's Computability' Data-Driven Personalisation and the Law, University of Southampton, 27-28 June 2019
    • 'De:Coded: Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property' IP Office/WIPO, Olympic Stadium, London, 18 June 2019
    • 'Dirty Data, Bad Decisions' (panelist), Cognition X, London, 10 June 2019
    • 'Introvert Narwhals: How AI Affects Our Culture' Cheltenham Science Festival, 8 June 2019.
    • 'Rule by Algorithm: The History of Cybernetics in Law from Cybersyn to Smart Cities' Faculty of Law, The University of Cambridge, Programme in Private European Law, 23 March 2019
    • 'Governance by Numbers When Numbers Don’t Lie: Dataism, Smart Cities, and the Architecture of the Legal Singularity' Surrey Workshop on Regulating AI, University of Surrey, 21-22 March 2019
    • 'Is Technology Making Us Miserable?' Cambridge Science Festival, Jesus College, University of Cambridge, 11 March 2019
    • 'Smart Cities and Ubiquitous Artificial Intelligence' Social Sciences and Law Interdisciplinary Conference, Jesus College, University of Cambridge, 3 March 2018
    • 'Law, Technology & Labour: The Case of Artificial Intelligence' The Future of Labour Markets Conference, UK Cabinet Office/Open Innovation Team, 14 December 2017
    • 'What Role For Law in AI?' University of Krakow, Programme in Private European Law, 20 January 2017
    • 'Complexity Theory as a Paradigm for Artificial Intelligence Regulation' Cambridge Conference on Catastrophic Risk, Clare College, The University of Cambridge, 12 December 2016
    • ‘Courtroom Application of Virtual Reality’, London, Bar Standards Board, 8 December 2016
    • 'Law, Work and Technology: A Systems Approach' Rustat Conference on the Future of Work, Jesus College, The University of Cambridge, 22 November 2016
    • 'How Should The Law Think About AI?' Society of Legal Scholars Conference, Jesus College, The University of Oxford, 5 October 2016




    Book Chapters

    "Governance by Numbers When Numbers Don’t Lie: The Cybernetic Path of the Law Towards Legal Singularity", The Global Politics of Artificial Intelligence (CRC Press) (Ed)

    CRC Press
    Published Mar 2019

    "Nineteen Eighty-Four's Religion" in James Crossley, 1984 and Philosophy (Open Court)

    Open Court
    James Crossley
    Published Dec 2017


    Our Sexual Future With Robots: A Foundation for Responsible Robotics Report

    Noel Sharkey, Aimee van Wynsberghe, Scott Robins, Eleanor Hancock
    Body / Institution:
    Foundation for Responsible Robotics
    Published: Jul 2017

    The Future of Work

    Professor Simon Deakin
    Body / Institution:
    Jesus College, The University of Cambridge
    Published: Mar 2017