Not About Uber: Regulations Should Grow With Us, Not Against Us

Regulations, i.e. made by the government to apply in a certain country, are meant to regulate the way things are for the benefit of the many (and in most cases, the country as well). We are in a time where technology is increasingly often challenging rules and creating regulatory problems, since when problems have not existed before, how can they be regulated (or prevented)?

I think I’ve written way too many times on how the current copyright law structure is not suitable for the 21st century; where copyright law prevents unauthorised copying to ensure the copyright holder receives economic value, current technology enables copying to a degree that a copy of a work is almost worthless at face value. There will probably be no way to reconcile this unless copyright rules are dramatically changed or erased altogether.

Uber, which for practical matters I will call a taxi-like service but does not want to be named as such, challenges regulations in probably every country in the world about public transport (or those specific about taxis and taxi-like services). In Jakarta, for instance, it’s pretty clear cut: if it’s open for use by the public and the public pays a fee, it’s public transport (yellow-plate). Officially, even cars chartered for private use are supposed to be recognised by the law as public transport. But this is where it enters a gray area, as many companies rent out black-plate (private) cars to those who pay and have not experienced any regulatory issues (well, at least not to my knowledge). Uber can just say that they enable car rentals connect with customers through their app, becoming a middle man, and not a taxi company at all since they do not have any, you know, cars.

Let me get to the point in my article: regulations are made by man, who have minds of their own, and hopefully, will figure out a better way of doing anything. If regulations were meant to be rigid, we wouldn’t need a whole building of elected officials to work on passing laws (well, at least, that’s what they’re supposed to do). And these officials were elected because, ideally, they will know what is best for the people, and draft laws accordingly. If laws were rigid and unchangeable, we should have robots as police, and thus what would be the point in shaping a human society?

If a challenge or innovation comes into the regulatory space, shouldn’t we see how this thing be beneficial — or not — for society, as a whole? Shouldn’t we learn how this thing can give us new lessons, new efficiency, new happiness et al, instead of saying ‘fuck you, this is the law, deal with it?’ Innovation may come from creative industries based in tech or design or art, but regulation should aspire to grow as quickly as innovation needs it to be, for the benefit of society as a whole (which might not be for the benefit of profit of a few).

Passing laws and regulations are understandibly a longer, more painful process, as it generally does not have the luxury of trial testing, beta versions, FGDs and so on; and I do not expect lawmakers to be super prescient in developing laws that would work in future, unpredicted situations. It just means that lawmakers have to work harder and smarter in responding to innovations introduced into society. Innovations are basically a new way of solving a problem in society. If lawmakers (and law-enforcement authorities) are too rigid with existing laws, how will innovation come about? And will we just accept that we will have to live with our problems, with no recourse of finding another, better way?

I vote no.

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