How Can Science, Technology, & Engineering Help Civil Liberties?

Too little attention and effort have been given to ways that scientific discoveries and new technologies can solve civil liberties dilemmas.

Instead, we almost only ever hear about how modern advances reduce or violate civil liberties. It is true that scientific and technological advancements often have led to violations of the right to privacy, the right to dissent, and free association.

But, what if we could skim one percent of the problem-solving genius in our science, technology, and engineering communities and put it to work for the good of our social and constitutional values?

There are already many examples to inspire us.

In science, bioscience companies are succeeding in deriving the cells from embryos without destroying the embryo, and others have begun to assemble evidence that it is possible to sprout human embryonic stem cells from something other than a human embryo. To the extent these efforts are successful, they bypass a flash point in the culture wars between those who seek to save lives through research and those who worry about the destruction of embryonic life.

Technology has helped to advance civil liberties in many positive ways. Some of the most exciting and pioneering advancements are technologies that empower people with disabilities to be full participants in society, such as devices that move computer cursors by tracking eye movements. Another ripe area for innovations is privacy protection tools, such as encryption devices that protect emails from identity thieves and government snooping. Camera surveillance can invade privacy, but it can also serve to protect people’s rights, such as dashboard cameras in police squad cars that videotape police-civilian interactions and prove or disprove allegations of abuse.

In this section of our site, we will collect examples to encourage this type of problem solving.

Please note as well our three awards for youth projects that promote or reduce the harm to civil liberties at the Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair.

If you would like to help us, or if you have examples to share, please e-mail us at scitech@aclusandiego.orgl.