Thursday, March 20, 2014

#80 / Privacy, Technology And Freedom

Forty-five students at the University of California at Santa Cruz, enrolled in Legal Studies 196, have just spent Winter Quarter studying "Privacy, Technology and Freedom." 

What is the future of privacy in the “brave new world” that our technologies are bringing into existence? What will these new technologies mean for our democracy, and for our historical understanding of human freedom? For that matter, could it be that our modern technologies are actually redefining what it means to be human – and particularly to be an individual? 

Soon (in fact tomorrow), each student in the class will be submitting a paper related in some way to to the topic. I had the privilege of serving as a faculty advisor to the students who will shortly be submitting their “Capstone Theses,” thus qualifying them to graduate from UCSC as a Legal Studies Major. It was inspiring for me to see how these talented young people are confronting the future with eyes wide open, ready to meet and master the forces that are moving with such astonishing rapidity to change our world. 

In the year I graduated from college, 1965, students were hearing from Bob Dylan, who sang:

Come writers and critics
Who prophesy with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no telling who that it’s naming
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

These words still have relevance today, for it is absolutely clear that the “wheel’s still in spin” with respect to what new technologies, in today’s world, will mean for our past understandings of both privacy and freedom. Momentous choices are ahead, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. In fact, to quote Bob Dylan once again, from his latest album, Tempest

It’s now or never, more than ever.

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