Hosted at the University of Nebraska College of Law, and in partnership with the Colleges of Business, Engineering, and Journalism and Mass Communications, we are an interdisciplinary center whose work focuses on the challenges and benefits that technology brings to our changing world. Like most academic centers, the Center’s main functions are research and education. Working with our partners, we hope to be a place where researchers and students from around the world can come for uniquely interdisciplinary and forward-looking discussions about the impacts that changing technology is having on our society. I hope you take some time to explore our website and the content and opportunities our Center presents.
In important ways, the past 150 years have seen consistent technological change that has been significant in terms of both pace and nature. The advent of modern telecommunications in the late 1800s, for instance, enabled near-instantaneous communications across great distance. Broadcast radio and television changed the economics and politics of communication – an acceleration of trends began with the introduction of the printing press. Over the past 75 years, the transistor, computer, and Internet have led to further consequential challenges the law. Since the turn of the millenia, social media has seen these threads converging, completely reshaping the global media and political landscape.
Perhaps the most important among these is that we now live in a world in which basic architecture of society is increasingly defined by, and can be changed by, a programmer’s will. This trend will only continue. The future is CRISPR and low-cost synthetic biology, smart cities and IoT devices that connect to and monitor other IoT devices, swarms of Internet-connected drones that can fly autonomously over hundreds of miles or can stay aloft for years at a time, additive printers and subtractive CNC machines for on-demand small-batch manufacturing, AI-generated news and entertainment, an increasingly disintermediated media environment, and a society whose laws and norms are adapting to an era of rapid climate change.
This is all to say that we are moving from a human history in which the law regulated human behavior that was fundamentally constrained by the natural world to a future in which law must regulate human behavior that is constrained by a world largely shaped by our own will, ingenuity, imagination, and mistake.
Studying the challenges of this new world is a fundamentally interdisciplinary endeavor. The impact of new technologies ripples across multiple fields – the traditional, siloed model of study is insufficient to fully grapple with them. With all of this in mind, the new center will be housed in the College of Law, and legal questions will inspire much of our research and academic programming. But the Center is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor. We have partnerships with Nebraska’s Colleges of Business, Engineering, and Journalism and Mass Communications.
I also want to draw your attention to our project, Tech Refactored, a podcast and content series focused on the Center’s work. Launching a Center during a global pandemic in 2020 gave our team the opportunity to rethink the traditional paradigms of academic conferences and workshops. Tech Refactored isn’t just a podcast – it’s our attempt to rewrite the code of academic events to better map onto the modern research endeavor. We are excited to share this podcast with you and hope you’ll enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoy recording it.
Finally, I would like to draw attention to the my title as director of this center: The Menards Directors of the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center. This Center has been made possible in large part by a generous gift by John Menard and his family. You can read more about this gift here. We, and I, are very thankful for this generous support and look forward to sharing with you the work that it will make possible.
The Menard Director of the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center