PhD Scholarship at NUI Galway on AI and the Technological Disruption of Law

Jul 08 2021 Posted: 13:50 IST
One funded PhD position is available to work on a doctoral thesis in the area of Artificial Intelligence and the Technological Disruption of Law. The successful applicant will work under the supervision of Dr John Danaher, School of Law .
It is open to the candidate to define the precise scope of their proposed PhD, but it should fit, broadly, within the parameters of the following project description:

Project Description: There is increasing anxiety among researchers and civil society about how AI and related technologies are threatening our existing normative systems. Recent ethical and legal debates about autonomous weapons, driverless vehicles, sentencing algorithms, and the algorithmic curation of news are just the tip of the iceberg in this respect. Most contributors to these debates take our current legal and moral norms as a given and use them to evaluate and critique technological developments. The goal of such contributors is to make technology more compatible with our existing norms, not vice versa. Consider, as an example of this, the EU’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence. In 2019, they produced a report that developed principles for creating ethically trustworthy AI. They did this by working from existing principles concerning trustworthiness and transparency. This has now been translated into a proposed regulatory framework for ensuring trustworthy AI through licencing and auditing of high-risk AI applications.

What these contributions seem to overlook is the potential for AI and related technologies to radically transform our existing moral and legal systems. As new technologies give us new powers and opportunities for action, and as we become more accustomed to their role in our lives, we often modify or alter our commitment to our existing norms. This has happened repeatedly in the past and is likely to happen again in the future. What significance does this have for the current policy debates about AI and law?

This PhD project should address this neglected perspective on the relationship between AI and law. It should consider the mechanisms through which AI can disrupt normative reasoning and catalyse future legal-moral changes. It should consider the implications this has for legal reform and governance. Law is often accused of lagging behind technological innovation. By taking the neglected perspective it may be possible to better anticipate and plan for future legal-moral reforms.

Representative research questions could include: 

  • What is the historical relationship between technology and legal-moral reform? Is there a common pattern to such technological disruption of law?
  • How are AI and related technologies currently disrupting normative beliefs and practices? How is this likely to change in the future?
  • What is the appropriate methodology for studying and planning for future legal-moral reforms?
  • What are the implications of technological disruption for processes of legal reform and governance?
Entry criteria



A minimum 2:1 Honours (or equivalent grade) UG and/or PG Degree in law or a related discipline (philosophy, social science etc). 
A 1st Class Honours (or equivalent grade) UG and/or PG Degree in law or a related discipline (philosophy, social science etc).


The scholarship is funded for a maximum of 4 years. It will cover full fees for the successful candidate, in addition to a stipend of €18,500 per annum. Nevertheless, the successful candidate will be expected to apply for Irish Research Council (IRC) and NUI Galway scholarships in the first year of their degree. 


Interested candidates should complete this Proposal Form: AI and the Technological Disruption of Law Proposal Form, and submit a CV and an academic writing sample (e.g. article, course essay, dissertation) by 5pm, 13th August 2021 to Informal inquiries can be sent to the same address. Candidates may be invited to interview.


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