January 16, 2020 – Economic Progress

UCLA Brings Together Engineering and Law Scholars to Study How to Harness Benefits of Emerging Technology


University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)’s new Institute for Technology, Policy, and Law will advance scholarship and address issues at the intersection of technology and the legal system, examining the impact of artificial intelligence, robotics, digital free speech, and other new technologies on our society.

Under the co-direction of John Villasenor, a professor of electrical engineering with faculty appointments in law and policy, and Richard Re, a professor of law, the new institute will bring together scholars in law, public policy, and engineering to explore topics such as digital media and communication technologies, and cybersecurity.

Villasenor joined the UCLA Samueli Engineering faculty in 1992, after several years developing imaging technology at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Villasenor has testified before Congress on issues regarding law and technology.

“To spur innovation and fully realize the extraordinary potential that technology can offer, we cannot look at technology alone,” said Villasenor. “We must also look at the role of legal and policy frameworks.”

Re, a former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined the UCLA Law faculty in 2014. He is faculty co-director of the Program on Understanding Law, Science & Evidence, or PULSE@UCLA Law.

“Lawyers, judges and policymakers are constantly engaging with the opportunities, challenges and ethical considerations posed by new technologies,” said Re. “An interdisciplinary approach will shed new light on the issues and create future leaders in technology and the law.”

“UCLA has been at the intellectual forefront of innovation for decades – innovation that has improved the lives of millions,” said Charles Koch Foundation Executive Director Ryan Stowers. “We’re proud to support UCLA’s scholars as they inform and shape dialogue at the intersections of academia, decisionmakers, and the public. The institute’s work addresses the questions that arise with new technologies and enables people to fully realize their benefits.”

The new institute is supported by a $4 million grant from the Foundation. Read the university’s announcement here, and the agreement here.