March 01, 2016

Harnessing Big Data for Humanitarian Efforts

I am pleased to introduce our new SciTech Profile column, which will offer insights from leading authorities in different fields about the use of science and technology. I am honored that John Prendergast, a renowned human rights activist and bestselling author, agreed to be interviewed for our first SciTech Profile. John has had an incredibly illustrious and diverse career. He is the founding director of the Enough Project, which focuses on Africa and seeks to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. With George Clooney, he co-founded the Satellite Sentinel Project, which uses satellite imagery to prevent human rights abuses. He has been a visiting professor at many universities, including my alma mater, Yale Law School. The subjects John discusses in his profile include his work with George Clooney on a new human rights initiative, The Sentry; ways people interested in science and technology can get involved in humanitarian work; the best career advice he ever received; and his own advice for those wanting to focus on humanitarian issues.

The Section had a wonderful Midyear Meeting in my hometown of San Diego. We had a successful and inspirational community service event at an inner-city San Diego elementary school with ABA President Paulette Brown and Ninth Circuit Judge Clifford Wallace. We were honored that Donald Rosenberg, executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary of Qualcomm, Inc., was the keynote speaker at our leadership dinner at the beautiful La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. We also were fortunate to have as our Section luncheon keynote speaker UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, who gave a fascinating presentation on cybersecurity.

This issue focuses on the timely and important issue of “big data.” The Section’s theme this year is “The Dawn of a New Era: Navigating Our Brave New World In Science and Technology Law Today and Beyond,” and the explosion of big data issues in our world is a great example of an emerging technological development with broad ramifications for us all. As President Obama’s Executive Office acknowledged in its recent report, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, “We are living in the midst of a social, economic and technological revolution. How we communicate, socialize, spend leisure time, and conduct business has moved onto the Internet. The Internet has in turn moved into our phones, into devices spreading around our homes and cities, and into the factories that power the industrial economy. The resulting explosion of data and discovery is changing our world.” The articles in this issue examine big data from several fascinating perspectives, including how attorneys can use big data to enhance their law practices; the current state of big data privacy and security issues and practical tips for dealing with them; using big data to make human resources decisions; and what happens after death to the big data you have generated in your lifetime.

I am pleased that the “MAD World” column for this issue highlights this year’s Rising Stars. The featured SciTech leaders embody the spirit of creativity in their search for ways to navigate our new world in science and technology law. We also have included information to help you be a better lawyer; one article, for example, addresses “Lawyering in the Information Age: Leveraging Analytics to Be a Better Attorney.”

We would love to have you join our Section at the ABA Annual Meeting August 4–6 in San Francisco. I also encourage you to consider joining one of our committees. We’re always looking for new leaders!

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