The Death of Rules and Standards

47 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2015 Last revised: 17 Nov 2017

See all articles by Anthony Casey

Anthony Casey

University of Chicago Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Anthony Niblett

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence

Date Written: November 20, 2015


Scholars have examined the lawmakers’ choice between rules and standards for decades. This paper, however, explores the possibility of a new form of law that renders that choice unnecessary. Advances in technology (such as big data and artificial intelligence) will give rise to this new form – the micro-directive – which will provide the benefits of both rules and standards without the costs of either.

Lawmakers will be able to use predictive and communication technologies to enact complex legislative goals that are translated by machines into a vast catalog of simple commands for all possible scenarios. When an individual citizen faces a legal choice, the machine will select from the catalog and communicate to that individual the precise context-specific command (the micro-directive) necessary for compliance. In this way, law will be able to adapt to a wide array of situations and direct precise citizen behavior without further legislative or judicial action. A micro-directive, like a rule, provides a clear instruction to a citizen on how to comply with the law. But, like a standard, a micro-directive is tailored to and adapts to each and every context.

While predictive technologies such as big data have already introduced a trend toward personalized default rules, in this paper we suggest that this is only a small part of a larger trend toward context-specific laws that can adapt to any situation. As that trend continues, the fundamental cost trade-off between rules and standards will disappear, changing the way society structures and thinks about law.

Keywords: law, technology, future, rules, standards, artificial intelligence, big data, prediction, communication, judges, regulators, legislature

Suggested Citation

Casey, Anthony and Niblett, Anthony, The Death of Rules and Standards (November 20, 2015). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 92, No. 4, 2017, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 550, University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 738, Available at SSRN: or

Anthony Casey

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

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773.702.9578 (Phone)


European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
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1000 Brussels

Anthony Niblett (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5

Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence ( email )

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