Sir Geoffrey Vos is the President of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales and the Head of Civil Justice. In legal speak, that makes him the Master of the Rolls.

Sir Geoffrey recently gave a lecture on what he considers to be the future of dispute resolution. Disclaimer: there will not be any hoverboards. There will not be any DeLorean time machines and they will not be stolen by Biff. Nevertheless, there are two main takeaways:

Firstly, the Master of the Rolls pointed out that in light of the immediacy with which we can already access content (think teenagers on TikTok), by 2040 litigants will expect to see justice delivered much more quickly and cost-effectively. This will likely result in judicial decisions made by AI, particularly in the context of low value claims.

The Master of the Rolls says the issue here will be whether public confidence would survive decisions made by artificial intelligence and thinks that “it will, provided the public understand what is being decided by a machine and what is not, and provided that ultimately there is the ability to question an AI driven decision before a human judge”. So, it looks like we may come full circle and once again turn to Robocop for justice in the not-so-distant future.

The second main point to consider is the role of Blockchain in cross-border disputes.  The Master of the Rolls explained that “Blockchain is borderless, so that much of the immutable data on which claims will be based will, as I have said, not be recorded in any one country or on any one node. But legal systems and justice systems are likely to remain largely parochial”. The issue here is how national legal systems will resolve disputes involving parties in several countries and which may be governed by more than one legal system.

The current approach to this is the application of the principles of the conflict of laws, but the Master of the Rolls thinks this is unlikely to suffice in the years to come. He instead postulates that in the future national digital justice systems will start to be accessible to systems operating in other countries and that there will be much less difference between a system in a civil law country and one operating in a common law country, i.e. they will work alongside each other.

There we have it. It remains to be seen whether these predictions will ring true but in the meantime we can always watch Back to the Future 2 for further guidance.