February 15, 2013

LSI seeks abstracts for spring conference on emerging technologies

Posted: February 15, 2013
Gary Marchant

The College of Law’s Center for Law, Science & Innovation has issued a call for abstracts for proposed presentations at its upcoming First Annual Conference on Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy and Ethics. Eleven other organizations from across the nation with an interest in emerging technologies are co-sponsoring this path-breaking event.

The national conference is slated for May 20-21 at the scenic Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler. Abstracts are due March 1, and should be submitted at law.asu.edu/emergingtechnologies. Successful applicants will be notified by March 22.

The conference will consist of plenary and session presentations and discussions on regulatory, governance, legal, policy, social and ethical aspects of emerging technologies, including, but not limited to, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, biotechnology, genomics, personalized medicine, stem cell and regenerative medicine, human enhancement technologies, telecommunications, information technologies, surveillance technologies, geoengineering, neuroscience and robotics.

Keynote speakers include George M. Church, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of PersonalGenomes.org, George Poste, Co-director and Chief Scientist, Complex Adaptive Systems Network, Regents’ Professor and Del E. Webb Chair in Health Innovation, ASU, and Andrew D. Maynard, NSF International Chair of Environmental Health Sciences, and Director, University of Michigan Risk Science Center.

There is much to be learned and shared from and across the governance experience and proposals for these various emerging technologies, said Gary Marchant, Faculty Director of the Center for Law, Science & Innovation.

“What’s clear is that for every single technology – from nanotechnology and neuroscience to robotics and surveillance technologies – the way we regulate them and their risks is not working,” Marchant said. “Traditional forms of regulation fail because they lag so far behind the science. These technologies are going forward at an unprecedented pace, and they cut across many different industries and sectors. And the set of governance issues they raise are of unprecedented diversity and importance.”

An example is autonomous weapons systems, which are capable of accomplishing military and other missions with little or no human intervention. “We are on the verge of having the technological capability to enable robots to make decisions about killing people, but we don’t yet have in place any principles or methods for governing this capability,” Marchant said. “We need to look at both the substance – what is the ethical thing to do? – and the process – how do we make these decisions in society? We will be exploring these issues at our conference.”

The conference will bring together government regulators, technology innovators, scientists and engineers, scholars from law, public policy, philosophy and ethics, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, students and journalists.

Participants will have a unique opportunity to explore the challenges that cut across many fields, the convergence of emerging technologies, and the societal impact of a bewildering array of transformative tools and techniques, said Wendell Wallach, of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University, a co-sponsor of the conference.

“We have entered a critical juncture,” Wallach said. “There are still opportunities to provide direction as to which technological possibilities should be embraced and those potential harms that must be addressed. But some of the opportunities to effectively monitor, manage and modulate the emerging technologies will disappear relatively soon.”

Multidisciplinary discourse, creative thinking and innovative approaches are fundamental to striking an appropriate balance between the risks and rewards, said Diana Bowman, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan Risk Science Center and the Department of Health Management and Policy. The Risk Science Center also is sponsoring the conference.

“Autonomous vehicles – drone warfare – sophisticated materials for tissue engineering – what once belonged only in the pages of science fiction is very much science fact today,” Bowman said. “And with the promise of new, emerging and disruptive technologies on the horizon, our capacity to grapple with the legal, policy and societal issues posed by the promised applications shall be challenged.”

Additional sponsors of the conference are the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU; the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at ASU; The Hastings Center; Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies; Initiative on Governance of Emerging Technological Systems, University of Minnesota; Ethics & Emerging Sciences Group, California Polytechnic State University; Neuroethics Studies Program, Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown University Medical Center; The Science & Technology Innovation Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; and Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.  For additional sponsorship opportunities, email gary.marchant@asu.edu. For more information about the conference and to register, visit law.asu.edu/emergingtechnologies.

Carrie Morales, carrie.morales@asu.edu
(480) 965-8702
Sandra Day O'Conner College of Law