“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” [Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt].
Should complete access to the internet be a fundamental right? Is our quality of life directly or inversely proportional to our use of technology? Are humans behaving more and more like machines? When is a technologically enhanced human not a human anymore? If genetic editing was cheap and simple, would we allow it? Is Zuckerberg really watching us?
These are few of the many normative 'tech and law' questions I don't answer in this article. All I do here is pretend to know the ugly truths and the dark stupidities of our time. And I marshal it the way Ambrose Bierce did in his famous, The Devil's Dictionary, which was followed by Advocate Bharat Chugh in his recent work, The Devil's Dictionary (of Law).
I have achieved this feat at the cost of my blood, sweat, tears, and toil. Blood, pressure of which shot up with the crypto crash. Sweat, finding judgments from the red tape CMIS of the courts' websites. Tears, shed in learning jumbled-letter-soups derived from the ‘techno-legal’ names of things. Toil, in aiding my 60-year-old lecturer-mother with her ‘virtual classes’.
Presenting to you, dear reader, “The Devil’s Dictionary of Technology and Law”. Onward.
Artificial Intelligence: An intelligence at times so intelligent that it extends beyond the comprehension of human intelligence.
Automation: A build-up to the documentary ‘Rise of the Planet of the E-Apes’. It begins with a blacked-out, anonymous house-helper narrating how he lost his job to a machine.
Blockchain: Learning this concept will instantly block your chain of thought and you will block it out of your system forever. See also: Jurisprudence.
Boilerplate Clause: A set of terms in a contract that is used mutatis mutandis to save time and effort, only to increase both time and effort in the form of dispute resolution.
Case Management Information System (CMIS): A system that informally performs stress tests on lawyers before producing their desired output. This is done to maintain the highest levels of mental endurance in the legal fraternity.
Cloud Service: A digital space to hold your data, often afforded to you at ‘no charge’ as the real product is not the cloud service but you.
Compliance: A corporate practice that has, somehow, kept thirsty predators from abusing and misusing resources to prey on each other and the masses. It involves drowning said predators in redundant procedures.
Cryptocurrency: A digital asset class that takes an investor and his money from "asmano ki uchaiyo me...bohot upar" to "500 le le land kara de" while being surrounded in the kohra of Elon Musk's tweets, thinking to himself "mai (beep) hu jo isme aya."
Cybersecurity: A process involving bonafide acts similar to fighting hostile gunmen with a pencil. You need to be precise every time, they need to be precise just once. Even this kind of security requires you to ‘jaagte raho’ at all times.
Data Protection: A concept you take seriously only after you’re a victim of whatever or whomever you were needed to be secure from.
Decentralized Finance (DeFi): (Un)banking using blockchain technology to defy (pun intended) the existing banking system.
Disruptive Technology: Any new technology that convinces 20-year-olds to invest in it “coz iz d future”. To create “long-term wealth and retire by their 20’s”. My dear 20-year-old, Savdhan rahe! Satark rahe!
Drone: A mechanical creature capable of air, water, and land operability. Yet, most likely to be spotted in weddings hovering over Priti and Pankaj as they do the ‘Titanic’ pose. If you spot multiple of them, someone is finding their own match in the crowd from the comfort of their homes.
E-commerce: A new weapon in the arsenal of the bargainers who unabashedly insist on paying the seller at discounted prices, instead of buying from the app actually offering those prices! If the customer is king, this one is irking.
E-sports: A full-time profession, pending the approval of Indian parents. It involves mastery in online physical activity and skill at the cost of real-life physical activity and skill.
Fin-Tech: An evolving species of finance professionals who now eye every bit of your data in addition to their historic interest in your money.
(5)G: Fifth-Generation technology using higher spectrum to increase the speed of messages on ‘the health risks of 5G’ among other things. An opportunity for both businesses and celebrities to stay relevant in the market.
Geospatial Tech: Use of modern tools and technologies that range from remarkable information systems capable of predicting natural calamities, to navigation systems occasionally directing you to the wrong side of a one-way road with complete confidence.
Health-Tech: Innovations such as contactless healthcare to ensure the health, care, and safety of doctors by avoiding contact with the families and other potentially violent stakeholders of the patient.
Information Solutions: A new class of professionals perennially convincing you that they are the godsend solution to all of mankind’s problems while charging you enough to cause financial problems.
Intellectual Property: Protectable creations of the mind, often unintellectual in today's age. Like this article.
Internet-of-Things: An interactive system of things leading to a world where your mobile will be connected to your laptop, tablet, smart-watch, smart-glasses, smart-coffee-mug, intelligent-fridge, clever-microwave, robotic vacuum cleaner, robotic guard dogs, and a smart gun to shoot the dogs down if their system corrupts. In simpler words, an unlimited buffet serving close-to-unlimited delicacies of data for companies.
Machine Learning: An overoptimistic human effort to make machines better at that one trait that has ensured their sustenance as a species. In a world of survival of the fittest!
Meme Coin: A class of cryptocurrency expected to take you ‘chaand tak’ but doesn't last mere ‘shaam tak’.
Phishing: A tool in a fraudster's kit-box that requires less effort and time to generate more money than its work-intensive homonym, fishing.
Privacy: An invasion of this by 'mohalle ki auntiya' is frowned upon. But a violation by tech companies, data companies, the government, and other hackers/fraudsters (who eventually service it to 'mohalle ki auntiya') is overlooked for convenience.
Ransomware: Digital equivalent of the Omni van.
Regulation: An often disproportionate State reaction to rein in the monster of disruptive technology much after it has affected industries, children's FDs, and the environment.
Simulated Reality: A concept complex enough to make a Christopher Nolan movie out of it.
Smart Contract: A contract capable of performing and enforcing itself, unlike regular contracts that require either courts or Vasooli Bhai to enforce them.
Srikrishna Committee: A cCmmittee consisting of those elderly members of the family who have a remarkable grasp of all trendy tech while a much younger you is clueless.
Surveillance: Warranted to prevent others from looting you in olden times. Enables (almost) anyone to loot you innovatively in recent times.
Techno-legal Nomenclature: Calling a spade a Flat-blade Manually-operated Unearthing Device (FMUD). And a shovel a Curve-blade Manually-operated Unearthing Device (CMUD). Collectively calling them and the person operating them a Manual Unearthing System (MUS). This is done to avoid ambiguity. Also to assert the exclusivity of the legal profession.
Tech Contract: A classification in contracts done because, well, why not?
Terms of Service: Extortion wearing a three-piece suit and Gucci shoes.
TMT: An area of legal practice that merits the name TNT in view of the outburst it is witnessing in recent times.
UI/UX: A web-based user-engagement platform design in which the term web stands for a real web meant to entangle you with the website/app for the ‘service providing’ spider to incessantly feed on.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): Mangifera indica equivalent of the drone genus.
Virtual Meetings: A place online where you lose your internet connection, patience, persuasion, and confidential data before losing your mind.
Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS): Operating UAVs within this resembles a remotely-controlled helicopter. Beyond this, it resembles a nail-biting-mind-numbing-zero-margin-for-error video game.
Anish Shahapurkar is a Mumbai-based advocate.