Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer

The Rule of Law, Science Fiction, and Fears of Artificial Intelligence


In this article, I consider how fears of the future operation and use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the exercise of constitutional power and how the depiction of AI in science fiction may play a role in determining future conceptions of the Rule of Law. Through its role in limiting the exercise of arbitrary power, the Rule of Law plays a crucial role in society. Where popular Rule of Law conceptions were frequently shaped by their authors’ fears, the Rule of Law is a product of fear. The operation of AI in society is also tainted by fear. This fear is exacerbated by science fiction accounts that frequently portray AI as complicit in a dystopian future. This portrayal of AI’s role is capable of generating a state of fear in society that assists in priming society to accept a different form of the Rule of Law in the future. In other words, where contemporary ideas of the Rule of Law are shaped by fear, and where fear exists in relation to AI’s exercise of constitutional power (and where this is influenced by depictions of AI in science fiction), fears associated with AI’s exercise of power may shape future conceptions of the Rule of Law.

Published: 2022-11-14
Pages:124 to 136
Section: Symposium: Jurisprudence of the Future
How to Cite
Burgess, Paul. 2022. “The Rule of Law, Science Fiction, and Fears of Artificial Intelligence ”. Law, Technology and Humans 4 (2):124-36.

Author Biography

Monash University
Australia Australia

Paul is a lecturer at Monash University. He is interested in all things related to the Rule of Law. Most of his time is spent trying to figure out—exactly—what the Rule of Law is, and in trying to think about the way that the concept can most clearly be expressed, discussed, and used. In doing this, he works within and is interested in legal theory, legal history, political theory, public law, economics, and constitutional theory. The rest of his time is spent wondering how the law (and Rule of Law) will need to evolve to cater for, and understand, AI in all of its guises. 

Paul currently leads two research projects. The first relates to the interrelationship – now and into the future – between the Rule of Law and AI. The second relates to the construction of an AI system to identify (if/then) arguments in judges’ reasons. 

Monash University Website: 
Google Scholar: 

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2652-4074