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College of Law television project receives grant

May 13, 2010

A creative multi-media project being co-produced by the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, which seeks to educate Americans about emerging technologies and engage them in the technology choices that will shape their lives, has received funding from the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

The $250,000 grant will be used to fund phase two of "Future Tense," which will investigate, via a three-hour national documentary series, interactive online presence and multi-year educational and public outreach component, three issues that are vital for the American public:

• The enormous potential benefits of the emerging GRINN technologies - Genomics, Robotics, Information Technology, Neuroscience, and Nanotechnology

• The serious ethical, social and legal dilemmas posed by their use, and

• The search for possible strategies and solutions to address these dilemmas

"The Arts and Culture Program of the Nathan Cummings Foundation gives priority to projects that address issues that are timely and relevant," said Program Director Claudine K. Brown. "'Future Tense' raises ethical questions today about innovations that affect the quality of our lives now and in the near and distant future."

The project's partners are the Center for Law, Science & Innovation at the College of Law, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in association with Eaton Creative, Inc., KAET (Channel 8) in Phoenix, and the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at ASU. The documentary, website and other educational programming are expected to launch in 2012.

"'Future Tense' stands for the idea that we need public discourse now about the legal, ethical, and policy implications of future scientific and technological breakthroughs rather than waiting to act until the new innovation is already upon us," said Paul Schiff Berman, Dean of the College of Law. "Our Center for Law, Science & Innovation is dedicated to keeping law and science moving on parallel paths, and this television and public information project will be a key part of making this Center the go-to place in the country for exploring these core questions of who we are and what we are becoming as a race."

"Future Tense" will examine the social implications presented by transformative emerging technologies such as drugs that enhance cognitive function, virtual reality, surveillance technologies, genetic profiling, designer babies, brain scanning and others. The project will further introduce underlying themes such as the role of and mechanisms for democratic decision-making and public participation in governing such technologies, the tension between beneficial and harmful applications, the gap between the poor and the wealthy, and the capability of existing regulatory systems to keep pace with rapidly accelerating technologies.

"'Future Tense' is a major national television project designed to alert individuals and institutions to accelerating changes occurring in all aspects of life caused by emerging technology, changes that everyone will need to anticipate and prepare for," said Project Director Jim Hennessy. "Funding from the Nathan Cummings Foundation supports this effort to assure we have a more equitable, safe and prosperous future."

The two-year grant will be used to produce the script and initial computer-generated imagery and to assemble a content board of scholars and scientists within ASU and outside the university. Terry McManus, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement at the College of Law, said it swings open the door for further interest.

"The Nathan Cummings Foundation is a major and respected institution, and that they see value in this project only adds further credibility to the need to educate the public on matters related to emerging technologies and their impact on society," McManus said.

For more information about "Future Tense," contact McManus at or call 480-727-0645.

Janie Magruder,
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law