Law Is Where Ideas and Real Life Collide First

Love that line from Wendy Grossman’s net.wars post, The opposite of zemblanity about gikii…which sounds like a fun event (inconveniently scheduled early in the Fall semester).

Here’s how the net.wars entry begins:

A lawyer walks into a bar.

A corporate1 lawyer looks around for unrecognized liabilities.

A commercial lawyer wonders if the bar’s owner wants to sell or expand.

An academic lawyer considers whether the laws that apply to the bar are appropriately framed.

An academic lawyer who goes to gikii starts speculating about the laws that will be needed in ten years’ time when the bar is staffed by robots whose embedded scanners collate customers’ brain structures, which they then print out on 3D organ printers to implant in hungry zombie kittens.

Like We Robot, gikii is lawyers riffing about the future, mixing law, technology, science fiction, and pop culture. Founded, as Richard Fisher writes in New Scientist, by Lilian Edwards and Andres Guadamuz, gikii is a safe space for speculation that, as Edwards put it earlier this week, would get you giggled at elsewhere.

Science fiction is often rightly talked about as the literature of ideas; what I hadn’t realized until first Computers, Freedom, and Privacy and then We Robot and gikii entered my consciousness is that law is where ideas and real life collide first.

(Lots more where that came from, plus links in the above.)

Incidentally, looking up zemblanity. I found this entry at World Wide Words:

In an ideal lexicographical world, every word ought to be matched with its opposite, its antonym. Ever since 1754, when Horace Walpole created serendipity — the ability to make unexpected and fortunate discoveries — it has had to survive without one. It is only recently appeared:

So what is the opposite of Serendip, a southern land of spice and warmth, lush greenery and hummingbirds, seawashed, sunbasted? Think of another world in the far north, barren, icebound, cold, a world of flint and stone. Call it Zembla. Ergo: zemblanity, the opposite of serendipity, the faculty of making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries by design. Serendipity and zemblanity: the twin poles of the axis around which we revolve.
Armadillo, by William Boyd, 1998.

The reference is surely to Novaya Zemlya, a group of Arctic islands owned by Russia. These were at one time commonly referred to in English as Nova Zembla, which is presumably where Mr Boyd got it from.

Here, according to the Urban Dictionary is an example of how William Boyd used the word:

The inevitable discovery of what we would rather not know.
As she pushed open the door, she knew that she would discover him in flagrante and herself in zemblanity.” — William Boyd

Apparently “Zemblanity” has already appeared in one legal judgment in Ireland in 2012.


  1. Actually that should be ‘a trial lawyer looks for accidents waiting to happen’, but never mind. []
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