Tuesday Triple Trivia Tease for September 30, 2014

3 Questions. 3 Hints. 3 Answers. Every Tuesday.

1. What technology promises to literally take you to the moon and back in the not too distant future?


Answer: the Japanese, with nanotechnology’s assistance, are developing an elevator for future motor travel to stations up in… space.  Carbon nanotechnology brings the much-needed supportive strength to the proposed elevator system, which will transport cargo and people to space via robotic cars.   The transport mechanism is said to be 100 times less expensive per kilo of weight than the current alternative: Earth-based rockets.   The downside?  Claustrophobics beware — it will take seven days to get from here to there.  Read more here.

2.  Just when you think running out of gas is your only obstacle to getting to work, along comes what technology?


Answer: if you are a subprime borrower under a car loan and you are late with a payment, but not necessarily in default, you may be prevented from starting your car engine, wherever you happen to be parked.   Subprime car loans have made it possible for people who otherwise would not qualify for a loan to have a vehicle.  However, this freedom comes at a price: curtailment of other freedoms.   These so-called “starter interrupt devices” contain built-in GPS technology allowing drivers’ movements to be monitored, posing privacy concerns and potential security threats.   The devices do allow for “emergency” start-up where a driver is in a crunch and an activation code is provided in such an instance.  The ability to remotely disable a delinquent borrower’s ignition has greatly reduced the number of late payments – from approximately 29 to 7 percent.   Nonetheless, many high-risk subprime borrowers feel as though they are held hostage by their lender — who can stop-start their freedom to roll at the click of a button.  Read the details here.

3. What seemingly unavoidable collision may result in greater dependence and less freedom?


Answer: the Internet of Things — the collision between our physical and virtual world — will arguably make our life easier.  We will be able to rely on our “things” to tell us what we should do, where we should go, how we should get there and so forth.  However, these know-it-all systems will surely have us saying “oy vey” in other areas: the technology will break or not cooperate and your average Joe (you) won’t know how to fix it; opting out issues; privacy; information safety; inappropriate decision-making based on questionable data; questionable data and other pesky concerns.   Do the potential benefits outweigh the foreseeable problems?  Is it too early to tell? Read more here and here.



Once a month.  Take the Challenge.

Each month we present one or more technologies with potential legal implications.

What’s YOUR answer?

One $25 Starbucks gift card card awarded per challenge based on what we feel is the most judicious response to the presented technologies. Click on “Leave a reply” to post your answer(s).  Deadline to be eligible for this month’s Starbucks gift card is October 1, 2014.

The Economist’s excellent Technology Quarterly published this week includes a story about George Church, a keynote speaker at our Center’s 2013 Governance of Emerging Technologies conference.  Read about Church and his many fascinating projects applying genetics and synthetic biology here.  The person who highlights and discusses the most interesting legal issue arising from the technologies Church considers will receive the coveted $25 Starbucks gift card.

TGIF Funny Fix for September 26, 2014

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize Winners!!

For achievements that first make people LAUGH
then make them THINK

2009 Public Health prize demonstration
Ig Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Elena Bodnar demonstrates her invention (a brassiere that can quickly convert into a pair of protective face masks) assisted by Nobel laureates Wolfgang Ketterle (left), Orhan Pamuk, and Paul Krugman (right). Photo credit: Alexey Eliseev, 2009 Ig Nobel Ceremony


Marchant’s Contribution Featured in TIME Magazine Online

Gary E. Marchant, Faculty Director, Center for Law, Science & Innovation and Professor of Law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, recently contributed to the discussion With Great Scientific Power Comes Great Responsibilitypublished by Zócalo Public Square and TIME online.  In his segment, entitled Developing Governance as Innovative as our Science and Technology, Marchant discusses the benefits and disadvantages related to opportunities provided by synthetic biology — and highlights the present lack of appropriate and functional governance systems to guide and govern this flourishing area.

Wednesday Web Watch for September 24, 2014

Unscientific Science?  Molly Mirhashem, writing for the New Republic, discusses the problem of questionable scientific studies that erroneously receive unsubstantiated international recognition by virtue of having been published in “scientific” journals that do not put claims and data through sufficient examination and verification.   Mirhashem exposes one such study, originally published by the Public Library of Science and thereafter picked up by a slew of well-recognized and reputable news outlets.  One shudders to think of the repercussions such wide dissemination of suspicious, pseudoscientific assertions may have on a typically well-read and educated segment of society.

Tuesday Triple Trivia Tease for September 23, 2014

3 Questions. 3 Hints. 3 Answers. Every Tuesday.

1.  Look at your computer screen (in 5 years).  What do you see?


Answer: meet your doppelgänger.  John Smart, futurist and founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, predicts that we will soon be able to have a carbon copy our very selves in digital form.  Our “twins” will require our authority to access and “pull” volumes of our data in order to truly evolve into the computer version of ourselves.  Things that still need to be perfected: conversational interfaces and semantic maps.  To be most effective, this technology will require us to give the online world full access to our digital selves.  Concerned about data privacy?  Smart says, don’t be: “[t]he future of personal control, isn’t control of data.  The future that we care about is control of an algorithmic interface of your identity.”  In other words, command over the technology, first — command over data, second.  Read the details here.

2. What in-the-works technology will hopefully result in more attentive drivers – and saved lives?


Answer: similar to a radar gun, a new device that can pick up the particular radio signals produced during text messaging is under development.  Kinks to be ironed out: distinguishing driver from passenger texting, “legislative approval and a commitment from law enforcement” and, presumably, laws prohibiting texting and driving.  Read more here.

3. What recent ruling could have you rethinking having a Facebook account?


Answer: you’ve been served! Via Facebook and it’s kosher.  In New York City at least.  For now.  Read the story here and watch out who you “friend” from now on.