Social Insects and the Legal Academy

By guest blogger Marc Lauritsen.

Norbert Wiener’s The Human Use of Human Beings (1950) delivers an astonishingly brilliant batch of essays from the early Information Age. One of the 20th century’s few true ‘Renaissance men’ — and the father of cybernetics — he highlighted both the liberating potentials of digital technology and the catastrophic dangers of military industrialism via a mélange of insights from science, technology, art, and history. One is gratified to see references to game theory and Benoit Mandelbrot alongside discussions of Newton, Leibnitz, and Clerk Maxwell. There are many delicious bon mots.

What does Wiener have to say about law?  Quite a bit in one short chapter, and scattered elsewhere.  One example: “Not even the greatest human decency and liberalism will, in itself, assure a fair and administrable legal code. Besides the general principles of justice, the law must be so clear and reproducible that the individual citizen can assess his [sic] rights and duties in advance, even when they appear to conflict with those of others.”

What might he say about contemporary legal education?  Perhaps that it is more like a static colony of ants than a thriving learning community dedicated to unleashing progress in matters of justice and legal wellness.

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