Wednesday Web Watch for October 22, 2014

There were technology-related privacy concerns way back in 1878?  Yes there were.  Mike Masnick, editor of the Techdirt blog, highlights that time in the late 19th Century when the New York Times published a piece condemning Thomas Edison’s phonograph and aerophone –  Edison’s “perverted ingenuity.” ”  On the phonograph, “[w]ho will be willing, even in the bosom of his family, to express any but most innocuous and colorless views and what woman when calling on a female friend, and waiting for the latter to make her appearance in the drawing room, will dare to express her opinion of the wretched taste displayed in the furniture, or the hideous appearance of the family photographs?”   The aerophone, an “atrocious instrument,” received similar accolades.  The author is no doubt spinning in his grave…though very quietly lest anyone should hear.

Tuesday Triple Trivia for October 21, 2014

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

1.  What event is linked to genetic modifications affecting a particular European nation?


Answer: researchers have discovered epigenetic modifications in subjects who lived through World War II Nazi Germany, passing behavioral disorders, such as magnified reaction to stress, on to their offspring (just like mice).   Thus, what has been referred to as “German angst” appears to have genetic, albeit altered, roots.   Results from the Uniysis Security Index which, as its title indicates, measures consumer security concerns, show that Germans are ahead of the “concerned” pack of nations.  As noted by one former German Chancellor, “[t]he Germans have a tendency to be afraid.  This has been part of their consciousness since the end of the Nazi period and the war.” The good news is that genes also react to better times so that atypical dispositions eventually even out.  This phenomenon is not limited to Germans or World War II.  Scientists have established similar stress-disorder correlations in other disturbing instances such as 9/11.  Read the details here.

2. “Internet addiction”?  With respect to what?


Answer: we are entering (somewhat) new territory: “[s]cientists have treated a man they believe to be the first patient with internet addiction disorder brought on by overuse of Google Glass.”  Let us hope that this is not a widespread reaction to wearing Glass.  After all, the guy was wearing the technology 18 hours a day — a likely red flag.   The patient, undergoing treatment for alcoholism,  was, in connection with that treatment, required to surrender all electronic devices, including his Glass.  Ironically, his Google Glass withdrawal symptoms were greater than his alcohol withdrawal symptoms.   Nonetheless, there is no consensus among psychologists “over whether the addictive use of the technology is a disorder in its own right or simply a symptom of other problems.”    Read more here.

3. What novel discovery could have you living beyond 100 years?


Answer: if you carry certain rare variants in the APOB gene you might well be one of the few to live beyond a century.  Read the story here.

Hodge Co-authors Article on Ebola for JAMA

Click here to read the article which considers whether, post Dallas, the U.S. health care system is prepared to handle a public health crisis like Ebola. 

Law Professor, James G. Hodge Jr., is a Center for Law, Science & Innovation Faculty Fellow at Arizona State University’s, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

October 2014 Starbucks Challenge

Once a month.  Take the Challenge.

Each month we feature one (or more) technology(ies) with potential legal implications and ask:

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 highlighted technology(ies), below. 

Deadline to be eligible for this month’s Starbucks gift card is November 1, 2014.

An extraordinary technology called “gene drive” manipulates nature by editing specific genes in wild organisms.   For instance, gene drive may allow researchers to permanently block mosquitoes’ ability to spread malaria, dengue or West Nile.  It may also be used to alter ticks, reducing Lyme disease infections.  Also, consider the Ebola crisis.  Gene drive likely could be used to cripple the disease by tweaking the fruit bat, said to be the culprit of the current outbreak.   However, “[f]or scientists, the “extent of the risk — and consequences associated with the technology are unknown. Scientists say that if this tech goes awry, it could mean accidental extinction for entire species, or unpredictable gene re-mutations spreading cross-species.”  Read more here and then submit the legal issues that might arise from use or misuse of this technology.  Click on the “Leave a reply”  icon to post your answer.

Wednesday Web Watch for October 15, 2014

Social media prompts instability according to a recent article by Curtis Hougland published in Knowledge@Wharton.  Online mass distribution of material occurs to inspire and encourage like-minded individuals to get up and join the cause.  “Follow” and “Like” us is the connectivity message that groups like ISIS and less controversial bodies are sending out.   Political unrest has intensified as a result of social media and what is “trending” is Balkanization: “[n]ations will follow the path of social media in splintering by sectarian, religious and ethnic interests.”  Is there a solution to the alleged “de-evolution of nationhood”?  According to Hougland, “[i]n the disease, lies the cure” which he discloses in the article.

Tuesday Triple Trivia for October 14, 2014

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

1. There is much talk about automation technology killing off certain jobs.  Likewise, how is internet technology expected to infringe on aspects of the traditional hit man’s job?


Answer: with greater connectivity comes … murder.   As more and more surgical implants become connected online, hacking will take on a brand new meaning.  The European Union’s criminal intelligence law enforcement agency (Europol) predicts that by the end of this year, the first “online murder” will have taken place based on a U.S.  security firm report.  This is yet another example where technology is ahead of safeguards and protocols, leaving those with vulnerabilities even more vulnerable.  Read more here.

2. Speaking of automation technology, what “displacement” system could impact legal practice in a positive way?


Answer: elementary, my dear Watson.   The rather mundane tasks that lawyers perform each and every day are up for grabs but on the positive side, IBM’s Watson may be what is needed to push lawyers who have become a little too complacent or apathetic to think ahead, better grasp complexities and be more innovative – in short, Watson could empower and complement lawyers – not fully displace them.  Read about 10 Watson-related predictions for the practice (and teaching) of law here.

3. What medical research breakthrough looks remarkably like a plate of spaghetti and meatballs?


Answer: otherwise known as tangles & plaques, researchers have created “Alzheimer’s in a dish” by growing network-forming human brain cells (via stem cells) in a gel and then giving the neurons (nerve cells in the brain) genes for Alzheimer’s disease.   This advancement is intended to provide scientists with an opportunity to study Alzheimer’s in a more parallel, efficient environment to hopefully gain some ground in the development of effective treatments for, and prevention of, the debilitating disease.  The revolutionary system allows researchers to “test hundreds of thousands of drugs in a matter of months.”  By contrast, using mice, a less efficient alternative testing method, each drug test takes a full year to complete.  The procedure will also be used to zero in on the genes that predispose individuals to the disease, especially ApoE4, said to be the greatest contributor to Alzheimer’s.  Read the details here.