Technology Law

Technology Law
After a few quick gulps of coffee, I departed from my apartment in Florida. It was six in the morning and still dark outside. Seventeen hours later, I made it to the District of Columbia. I drove to Washington to attend a conference hosted by Ralph Nader on the state of competition in the computer industry. At some point during that drive, I realized I had become a ?computer nerd.?
Before that, I had never really fancied myself a ?computer nerd.? To be quit honest, computers used to intimidate me in a certain respect. I did not even own one until I enrolled in college. My primary interest in college was philosophy, a discipline which, at first glance at least, does not seem particularly connected to the computer world. I was drawn to philosophy because of its emphasis on analytical thinking. By ?analytical thinking,? I mean the use of logical analysis and creative speculation to sort out different aspects of an argument. I instantly felt at home in my first philosophy class when my professor remarked that people looking for ?the answers? in his classes would be disappointed. What interested me in philosophy was the sustained and rigorous attempt to think through intellectual questions not necessarily to ?the answers,? but towards more sophisticated formulations of alternative viewpoints and arguments.

In contrast to my intuitive attraction to philosophy, I stumbled upon the world of computers in my junior year of college. Tired of working unrewarding jobs during the summer, I figured that I should develop some practical, marketable skills (especially since graduation was nearing and I knew my philosophy degree, while invaluable to me, was not a hot commodity on the job market). In that context, I took a few computer programming classes. I soon discovered that I actually liked designing programs. Whereas I assumed that ?the answers? would be taken for granted in computer science, I found that computer science, especially when practically applied, requires both logical and imaginative problem solving. The skills refined in my philosophy classes, the application of logical thinking and attention to various ways of looking at a problem, proved helpful in computer programming.

Later, I sensed other links between my interest in philosophy and the technical world of computers. I first began making those realizations while working for Stand For Children, a small Washington DC based nonprofit. Stand?s mission is to develop a national network of child activists. My primary responsibility at Stand was the day-to-day maintenance of their website, a central component of that mission. Stand was still defining itself back then, and we spent a lot of time brainstorming and discussing how the new technologies emerging with the internet could be used to help bring people together in coordinated social activism. During those sessions, I realized that there are tremendously complex intellectual questions regarding the use of technology for concrete social good. The same attraction that had lured me to philosophy, the desire to think through complex questions, fueled a new preoccupation with the role of computers and the computer industry in society.

A year later, I sacrificed my weekend just to hear lawyers, economists, computer scientists and consumer activists talk about the computer industry. My metamorphosis into a ?computer nerd? was complete my interest in programming evolved into a fascination with computers and the industry that produces them. At the conference, I listened closely as the speakers offered their viewpoints on the state of competition in the industry and how to best preserve innovation. And yet, though I was an interested observer, I realized I lacked an insider?s perspective on the relationship between the law and the computer business. Now, after working in San Francisco as a web programmer, I have a better appreciation of the importance of competition law as well as the danger in applying it to an industry as fast paced and dynamic as the computer industry. I have witnessed the necessity of protecting intellectual property and the difficulties in doing so. Most importantly, by working for a small startup, I have learned about the entrepreneurial culture of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. These experiences, combined with my willingness to think through tough theoretical questions, have prepared me to tackle the complicated issues of technology law.

Technology Law 8.6 of 10 on the basis of 1862 Review.