An expert panel debates the assertion that government by algorithm is preferable to that of politicians with no verifiable tech expertise.


  • Welcome and introduction: Dr Sam De Silva, FBCS, CITP, Partner, CMS UK, Chair of the SCL D&I Advisory Group and Chair, BCS Law Specialist Group
  • Motion Proposed by: Dr Stephen Castell, CITP CPhys FIMA MEWI MIoD
  • Motion Opposed by: Dr Nigel Young, CITP MBCS MMA FAE (Fellow of The Academy of Experts)
  • Moderator of the Debate: Rachel Free, Partner, CMS UK
  • Seconder to Proposer of Motion: Matthew Lavy, SCL Trustee, Barrister, 4 Pump Court
  • Seconder to Opposer of Motion: Shobana Iyer, Barrister, Swan Chambers


This event, led by the BCS Law Specialist Group, will be a Debate under Chatham House Rules, open to all. The Motion is “This House would prefer to be Governed by Algorithm direct, than by Politicians who are not ICT Professionals and who have never coded software to deliver a functionally useful Algorithm for any customer or user”, and all participants will be encouraged to join in and contribute in insightfully robust and forthright fashion.

Thought-leaders, academics, students, citizens, politicians, professionals and practitioners active or interested in the increasingly confluent domain of ICT and the Law, in particular in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Data Science, Brain-Hacking, cyborgs, androids and avatars, are welcome to attend this online Debate.

The Proposers and Opposers of the Motion, and their Seconders, will speak for 30 minutes in total, and then the discussion will be opened for around 55 minutes to contributions by those attending, for vigorous and interactive discussion. A closing vote on the Motion will be taken: will you be persuaded away from the view you held at the start of the Debate, or will it have served only to strengthen your thinking and position?


In mid-August 2020, the UK media trumpeted ‘The Algorithm is Dead’, referring specifically to the then ‘hot’ news story of the UK Government’s canning of the infamous A-Level Grade-Assigning Algorithm from Ofqual. The subsequent BCS Policy Team report ‘The Exam Question: How do we make algorithms do the right thing?’ asserted that “Algorithms that change people’s lives - for example when estimating students’ grades - should now meet strict standards of ethics and competence”. That punchy journalistic phrase and the BCS Policy Team report together neatly highlight the important, more general topic of ‘Government by Algorithm’ and issues that go much wider than simply one Algorithm for one Application Area, ‘Decision Making in Education Policy Management’.

About the speakers

Dr. Stephen Castell CITP, is a Medallist, IT Consultant of the Year (BCS Professional Awards), for the past thirty years an independent expert witness, consultant, mediator and arbitrator, experienced in litigation in regard to complex, large-scale ICT systems investment and contracts, software valuation, computer evidence reliability and authentication, IP, cryptocurrency tracing and blockchain forensics.

Widely published, in his recent paper, ‘The future decisions of RoboJudge HHJ Arthur Ian Blockchain: Dread, delight or derision?’, Castell, S. (2018), Computer Law & Security Review, Volume 34, Issue 4, August 2018, Pages 739-753, the insight was developed that, while many are concerned about ideas of ‘Algorithmic Fairness’, and ‘AI Machine Ethics’: “You cannot construct an algorithm that will reliably decide whether or not any algorithm is ethical”. “Talking about the ethics of machines might be like speaking of the happiness of water” (page 743).  

Dr. Nigel Young's background is in mathematics. He started his career applying mathematical and computer techniques to industrial research problems. From there he moved into software development of a mixture of technical and commercial applications. In 1995, he started acting as an expert witness and he now has a practice in civil and criminal disputes (with the odd family case thrown in). Along the way, Nigel became Chairman of The Academy of Experts, the first of the learned societies for expert witnesses across professions. Nigel is still a member of its Council and works on its various projects. The Academy of Experts (TAE) and The Expert Witness Institute (EWI) are the two learned societies for expert witnesses recognised by the BCS. 

Matthew Lavy is a barrister with 4 Pump Court. He has a broad commercial practice, but with a particular interest in and focus on disputes involving technology (in all industrial, commercial and consumer contexts). He is on the Lord Chief Justice’s advisory group on Artificial Intelligence and a Trustee of the Society for Computers and Law. He is Co-editor of “The Law of Artificial Intelligence” (Sweet & Maxwell, 2020).

Shobana Iyer is a practicing commercial barrister and arbitrator with expertise in technology and intellectual property disputes within various sectors including TMT, Finance, Energy, Sports and Creative (from Film, Fashion to Video Games). Her IT practice covers software and hardware procurement contracts, outsourcing contracts, supply and development contracts, cloud-computing contracts, e-commerce, digital marketing, digital media, telecommunications and data protection as well as the legal issues on the use of emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and blockchains. Shobana has extensive experience of working on challenging and technically complex cases, usually involving an international element and regularly deals with conflict of laws issues. Shobana sits on various committees dealing with the use of AI and is a Vice-Co Chair of the Legal Services Committee for the Bar Council of England and Wales.

Dr Rachel Free is a partner at CMS UK and a European patent attorney with an MSc in Artificial Intelligence and a DPhil in vision science. She helps clients protect their technology through patents in a wide variety of fields, including AI, software, construction, infrastructure and telecommunications. She also provides training and advice regarding AI ethics and AI regulation.

Rachel has patent experience in a range of technical fields including neural networks, data centre storage, multi-core systems, cryptography, programming languages, information retrieval, machine learning, quantum computing, internet of things, time of flight cameras, natural user interface technology, image processing, infra-red sensors, wireless communications, voice over internet protocol, video codecs, cloud computing technology, mobile phone antennas, software and telecommunications.

Rachel is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) and a member of its Computer Technology Committee. She has lectured for CIPA and acted as an Examiner for CIPA.

Dr Sam De Silva FBCS, CITP is a partner at CMS and specialises in complex and strategic IT and outsourcing projects. Sam is the Law Society’s representative on the European Commission’s Expert Group on Cloud Computing Contracts and the IT Law Committee of the CCBE (The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe). Sam is also on the Technical Strategy Board of the ICAEW. Sam is a Trustee of the BCS and on the Council of the BCS (vice-chair 2016–2017). Sam is named in the Who’s Who of Information Technology 2021, Who’s Who of Data Privacy and Protection 2021, and the Who’s Who of Data Security 2021 as both a Global Leader and Thought Leader in those areas of law. As well as being an English qualified solicitor, Sam is also a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand and a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia, and has been involved in some of the most cutting-edge IT and outsourcing projects in those jurisdictions.

This joint event is brought to you by: SCL (Society for Computers and Law) and BCS Law specialist group

Webinar: The Government by Algorithm Debate
Date and time
Thursday 15 April, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
This event is sold out