Duke University SLAPLAB Students Research & Document Information to Influence Policymakers Regarding 3D Printing & Other Technologies in the Future

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duke logoAs much as 3D printing often allows us to operate on that sharp cutting edge, presenting innovations that are completely new and would have previously been impossible, the technology has also dusted off numerous conventional processes and techniques and refreshed them, offering new concepts for many things we probably never saw changing—from the ways we deal with infrastructure, and working on road construction to streamlining procedures for health and safety, even improving systems like first responses for emergencies in isolated areas via drones. And while manufacturing and industry show us that they are now successfully using 3D printing for making everything from car parts to components for enormous jet engines, the tools now available to designers are changing the game there too, whether we are talking modern furniture, incredible fashions, or fine art. 3D printing is transforming—and improving—nearly everything, it would seem.

And now it looks as if legal policies might need some polishing up too—or at the very least, some deep studying, and especially from the scientific realm at the SLAPLAB (Science, Law, and Policy), part of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society.

Nita Farahany is the director of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society, as well as a professor of law and philosophy. She is also in charge of directing the SLAPLAB, and notes that it’s crucial today to couple both science and policy in research as they become so connected. In her own work, examining the applications of neuroscience in the criminal courtroom, she states that she works to generate the research as well as combining it with practical decision-making.

Nita Farahany

Nita Farahany

“There are a lot of important decisions in science policy made without empirical research to guide those decisions,” Farahany said. “One of the main purposes of SLAPLAB is to do research that can help and form and shape public policy, in particular science policy, by bringing data to questions that society grapples with.”

Currently as researchers work on a variety of projects, they compile evidence using surveys from sites like Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing venue and marketplace for work, allowing them to ‘coordinate human intelligence’ for completing projects computers simply cannot. Afterward, they employ statistical and analytic software to review their results.

According to Rosa Castro, both a patent lawyer and a SLAPLAB researcher, this is very theoretical research, but allows researchers to consider how they will present their work and findings.

“It’s important for researchers and policy­makers to know what the public thinks,” Castro said. “Policy is supposed to be for the people, so it is important for policy­makers to know what consumers are afraid of.”

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[Photo: The Chronicle]

Elish Mahajan is a university junior who works with Castro in regards to 3D printing technology.

“[3D printing] is already coming up in Congress. It’s already coming up among world leaders,” he said. “So by contributing to the literature, hopefully we’ll be giving a unique point that influences how policy is shaped in the coming years.”

Farahany also hopes that as technology like 3D printing is included in discussing laws and policy, so will be other high-tech fields like robotics and AI.

 “The kind of person that works best [in the SLAPLAB] is someone that’s interested in [science, policy or law], but also interested in all of them combined together,” Mahajan said. “It’s the kind of person that wants to see how things connect and how things mix together and the actual, applicable results.”

What an incredible time to be a law or even a pre-med student in this context, participating in the SLAPLAB. These particular students are being educated in a fascinating era in terms of the convergence of new technologies and laws—as well as social impacts. As virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and an overwhelming amount of innovation from 3D printing come into play, when it comes to legislation, it can be hard to find current applications for issues and concerns that may not have existed previously or just were not thought about when laws were being made.

SLAPLAB may also in the next year begin to combine projects with the Morals, Attitudes & Decision­-Making Lab, or MADLAB, at the Kenan Institute of Ethics. Discuss further in the SLAPLAB & 3D Printing Laws and Policies forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: The Chronicle]

 

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