Tech history is an endless tug-of-war between new innovations and old laws. But behind this legal machine are often bizarre court cases full of petty criminals, old-fashioned gumshoe detectives, and robots who want civil rights.
In a very unusual Ars Technica Live event on June 13 in Oakland, your co-hosts Cyrus Farivar and Annalee Newitz will discuss their recent books about the people whose lives (and deaths) become test cases for new tech laws that govern millions of others.
Farivar, one of Ars’ tech-policy reporters, is the author of , a book that explores 10 historic court decisions that defined our privacy rights and matched them against the capabilities of modern technology. There’s the 1960s prosecution of a gambler that established the “reasonable expectation of privacy” in nonpublic places beyond your home. Then there’s the 1970s case where police monitored an obscene phone caller, which led to the legal decision which formed the linchpin of the NSA’s controversial metadata tracking program revealed by Edward Snowden. And what about that time when a 2010 low-level robbery revealed police had tracked a defendant’s past 12,898 locations before arrest? That’s just the tip of the digital iceberg.
Newitz, Ars Technica’s editor-at-large, is the author of the science fiction novel , winner of the Lambda Literary Award and nominated for the Nebula and Locus Awards. Set in 2144, it focuses on two characters whose lives have been transformed by tech law. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can’t otherwise afford them. Paladin is the robot sent to track her down, who struggles to find freedom in a legal system where robots must work as indentured servants for 10 years to pay off the cost of their manufacture. It’s your basic robot-vs.-pirate scenario about the future of patent law and robot civil rights.
These Ars staffers will interview each other about the past and future of tech law at the next Ars Technica Live on June 13 at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland. There will be plenty of time for audience questions, too. Doors are at 7pm and the event starts at 7:30pm. Tickets are free. RSVP on Eventbrite. (Books will be for sale courtesy of our friends at Laurel Books!)
Ars Technica Live is a monthly series spotlighting people who are working at the cutting edge of technology, science, and culture. It’s held the second Wednesday of every month at Eli’s. Normally, we interview other people, not each other.
If you can’t make it, don’t worry! We post video of the event on Ars Technica two weeks after the live show. You can see video of past Ars Live conversations here.