September 22, 2020 – Economic Progress

New center at University of Nebraska will explore the changing relationship between law and technology and how it impacts society


The University of Nebraska has announced two new grants, one each from the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) and the Menard family, that will support the university’s newly-launched Governance and Technology Center. The Center, housed jointly in the university’s Colleges of Law, Business, and Engineering, will study the ever-changing relationship between law and technology and how the interaction between the two impact society.  

“The law today has developed over centuries, largely based around slowly evolving technologies that were limited by our understanding of the natural world,” said Law Professor Gus Hurwitz, the center’s founding director. “Today’s increasingly programmable technologies can change rapidly and are limited more by human imagination than by the natural world. This changes how we need to think about the law and changes the relationship between the engineers who develop new technologies, the entrepreneurs who commercialize it, and the journalists who explain and contextualize it.”  

The NU Board of Regents and the State Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education approved creation of the center in February. The Menard family will provide $3.5 million over four years to the center. The CKF grant will total $1.3 million.  

In an open letter to the University of Nebraska community, the Menard family said, “A seminal part of the college experience is hearing from people who have a diversity of viewpoints and track record of creating value for others. At Menards, we want to give more students the opportunity to have that experience and to develop a lifelong love of learning as a result.” 

The grants will allow the center to conduct interdisciplinary research and study of the ways new technologies impact societies, communities, and people. Specifically, the funding will allow the center to create new professorships, establish a visiting scholars program, create programs, lectures, and conferences, and expand the university’s research capabilities.

The center’s first endeavor is called “Tech Refactored,” a podcast series focused on the center’s work and the research it will help facilitate. Many of the initial episodes will showcase center-funded work on closing the rural digital divide and technology’s relationship to agriculture. The center is also working on programs this fall that examine highly interconnected economies and the effects of technology on the First Amendment and the media industry. 

“Innovation and technology have transformed the way humans live and have expanded opportunities for millions of people,” said Charles Koch Foundation Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “We are excited to support the University of Nebraska and its scholars and students as they explore the intersection of law and technology and how that relationship impacts the development of new innovations.”  

Click here to see the University of Nebraska’s announcements. Click here to read the grant agreement between the university and the Charles Koch Foundation.