ASU A-Z Index
Colleges & Schools
News & Events
Centers & Programs
Alumni and Friends
Support ASU Law
College of Law News
‘Engineered evolution’ is lecture topic
`Engineered evolution' explained at Jurimetrics lecture
Author Joel Garreau
It sounds like science fiction: pills that make you forget everything one day and remember everything the next, robots that hunt down red blood cells and kill cancer and other disease cells, and implanted microchips that enable a person to speak and understand any language imaginable.
But the technologies for these and other advancements aren't movie or comic-book fodder, nor are they far into the future. Instead, according to a speaker Nov. 15 at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, they are just years from reality.
"We have been living in a period of exponential change," said Joel Garreau, a reporter and editor at
The Washington Post
who spoke at the seventh annual Hogan & Hartson Jurimetrics Lecture. "Can anyone remember life before Google? How did we get anything done? And it's only been about 10 years since the phrase `dot.com' was invented."
Garreau, author of
Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies - and What It Means to Be Human
, outlined several scenarios of "engineered evolution," in which technology modifies us, rather than our environment. It's the next stage in human evolution, and one over which people will have great say, he said.
"We have become the first species to really be able to take control of our own evolution," said Garreau, attributing that ability to GRIN - Genetics, Robotics, Information and nanotechnology.
Already, Duke University's Belle, which Garreau called the world's first telekinetic monkey, can play computer games with her thoughts, instead of a joystick, utilizing technology that someday may be used to help paralyzed people walk. A California manufacturer is building factories to produce plastic sheets that generate electricity and possibly will reduce the world's dependency on oil, he said.
Garreau gave three scenarios on how humans will manage these technologies - heaven, hell and prevail. In "heaven," ignorance, stupidity, pain, suffering and even death are conquered, he said. In "hell," the "optimistic" view is all of human life will be destroyed in 25 years by technologies that get into the wrong hands, he said.
The preferred scenario, called "prevail," is described as the future being dictated by people who tame the technologies they view as harmful and accelerate those that seem beneficial, Garreau said.
The Hogan & Hartson lecture honors the late Lee Loevinger, a longtime friend of the College of Law and member of the advisory board of its Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology. Loevinger coined the term jurimetrics, which means the scientific study of the law, and co-founded
Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science, & Technology
, a quarterly journal on the topics of law and science that is published by the Center and the American Bar Association's Section on Science and Technology Law.
Patricia D. White, Dean of the College of Law, said Loevinger loved science and believed the relationship between law and science was not well understood. Loevinger worked to rectify that, and early on, he recognized the stellar work that was being done at the Center, White said.
"He adopted us, and he would always come out here to spend time at this law school," said White of Loevinger, who practiced at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Hogan & Hartson. "He had enormous influence over the study of law and science, and it was his vision that has now been embodied throughout law schools."