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How Will the U.S. Supreme Court Handle Emerging Technologies?
Alex Steffen, 29 Aug 05

Given the realities of American power, the U.S. Supreme Court is arguably the most important judicial body in the world -- especially when it comes to legally delineating technological research agendas. As the U.S. Senate gears up to debate the nomination of John G. Roberts Jr., Jeffrey Rosen argues that nominees' understandings of the legal and ethical debates on emerging technological and scientific issues ought to be one key measure by which we judge them:

[I]n the next 10 or 15 years, as technology and science continue to advance and America's demographic profile continues to change, the Supreme Court will, in all likelihood, be asked to decide a fascinating array of divisive issues that are now only dimly on the horizon... a Brave New World of constitutional disputes. As Congress and the states pass legislation to address a host of futuristic issues, from the genetic enhancement of children to the use of brain scanning to identify criminal suspects, the laws will inevitably be challenged in court, raising novel and surprising questions about how to interpret our constitutional rights to privacy, equality and free expression. Rather than focusing on Roberts's past, the senators questioning him might get a better sense of his future on the Supreme Court by imagining the issues of the next generation. The court's response to those issues, far more than its resolution of cases that will be decided next year, will define the role it will play in the first decades of the 21st century.

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