(Im)Perfect Enforcement Conference

We invite paper submissions for “(Im)Perfect Enforcement,” an Information Society Project conference to be held at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut on April 6-7, 2019.

Please submit 500-word abstracts to nikolas.guggenberger@yale.edu by December 14, 2018. Selected papers will be due February 15, 2019.
For any further questions, please feel free to contact Nikolas Guggenberger.

Recent technological advancements enable an unprecedented level of algorithmic decision-making processes and automated legal enforcement actions. Both of these methods of replacing humans with algorithms are often celebrated for “more perfectly” enforcing rules. Social media networks employ algorithmic decision-making to scale content moderation; criminal justice institutions delegate decisions on sentencing, probation, and risk to algorithms; machine-to-machine contracting in high-frequency trading depends on both algorithmic decision-making and automated enforcement; and blockchain technology and smart contracts aim to create self-enforcing contracts.
We aim to explore the fundamental principles and the practical applications of algorithmic-decision making and automated enforcement of laws, rules, and contracts. We encourage submissions from all disciplines that contribute to related legal, regulatory, or policy discussions addressing potentials and challenges, including:


  • How can we delineate the meaning of “(im)perfect enforcement” with regards to both decision-making processes and legal enforcement? What laws should or should not be perfectly enforced, and what laws should not? When and why do people want perfect enforcement? What factors influence those evaluations?
  • How do we find the right balance between automation, flexibility, and justice? How, if at all, does automation change the character of laws, rules, and contracts?
  • What does it mean to have enforcement without enforcers? Where are the checks in the system? To what extent do rules require discretion? What is the potential of automated interpretation and management? What are the roles of humans in the loop in different contexts and cultures? Are there universal truths or values?
  • When is there a right to obtain a human decision? What tasks and decisions should we automate – or not automate – and why? What principles should we follow when allocating resources to building the infrastructure for the automation of decision-making processes and legal enforcement actions? Who should take the lead?
  • When, if ever, is it useful to conduct an economic analysis of (im)perfect enforcement, and how would we do it? What is the role of artificial intelligence in the debate on rules vs. standards and ex-ante vs. ex-post regulation? Are there useful insights from behavioral economics?
  • To what extent should we build legal compliance into the architecture of autonomous systems? How might we implement it in practice?


  • Smart contracts and blockchain technology
    How do we ensure the rule of law in decentralized networks? How might programmable money and algorithmic compliance affect the supply chain? How can decentralized autonomous organizations strike the right balance between static and flexible approaches to corporate governance? How can we increase the transparency of smart contracts? How can we link the judicial system to decentralized transaction networks? Do we need access points for courts, notaries, arbitrators, and other authorities?
  • IoT and machine to machine contracting
    How should we best design the legal framework for the internet of things? What is the appropriate role of contract, property, and tort law? What liability arises for whom? How do we best ensure privacy, transparency, and consumer protection? How should we regulate high-frequency trading and its systemic impacts?
  • Criminal justice and sentencing
    When might robots or algorithms be ‘better’ or ‘fairer’ judges? What is the appropriate role of predictive algorithms for decisions on sentencing, parole, and searches? What are the potentials and challenges of location tracking for parolees?
  • Content moderation and automated copyright enforcement
    Who is the best regulator of online speech - the state, platforms, courts, users, or private arbitrators? What are the potentials and challenges when filtering content for hate crimes, fake news, and copyright infringements? Which are the most promising approaches to successful content moderation? To what extent are those models scalable? What are the potential chilling effects?
  • Autonomous weapon systems and malicious cyberoperations
    To what extent are autonomous weapon systems in use, and how are they likely to develop? Which decisions in armed conflict can or should be delegated to machine systems? Which can or should not? Is it possible to avoid the weaponization of civilian technologies, or the diffusion of military-grade technologies to law enforcement? Which entity is best suited to regulate autonomous weapon systems?

The Information Society Project (ISP) is an intellectual center at Yale Law School that explores issues at the intersection of law, technology, and society. It supports an international community of interdisciplinary scholars and convenes legal experts and hosts events to foster collaboration and the cross-pollination of ideas.