Washington Law Review


Gaia Bernstein


Heated debates often surround the introduction of an important new technology into society, as exemplified by current controversies surrounding human cloning and privacy protection on the Internet. Underlying these controversies are disruptions to central socio-legal values caused by these new technologies. Whether new technologies will eventually be accepted by society is often contingent on the reaction of the legal system. This mandates the formulation of a conceptual framework for understanding and structuring the way the law should react in cases surrounding the adoption of new technologies. By using the case study of artificial insemination this Article develops the tools for structuring the legal role in the acceptance process of new technologies. The three-century controversy surrounding the innovation of artificial insemination results from the innovations' disruption of the socio-legal value of the family. Artificial Insemination—although invented in the eighteenth-century—was rarely used until the 1930s, and only legalized in the 1960s. Its application to surrogacy and its use by unmarried women extends the controversy into the twenty-first century. The case study demonstrates the nature of the relationship among the technological, social and legal acceptance processes of new technologies, and analyzes the legal acceptance debate. The conceptual framework produced is useful in understanding and structuring the legal role in current debates surrounding the introduction and acceptance of new technologies.

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