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The Experiential Future of the Law

Adam Kolber, Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School

March 19, 2011
50 minutes
Adam Kolber


Pain, suffering, anxiety, and other experiences are fundamentally important to the law. Despite their importance, we have limited ability to measure experiences, even though legal proceedings turn on such measurements every day. Fortunately, technological advances in neuroscience are improving our ability to measure experiences and will do so more dramatically in what I call "the experiential future."

I will describe how new technologies will improve our assessments of physical pain, emotional distress, and a variety of psychiatric disorders. I will also describe more particular techniques to assess whether, for example, a patient is in a persistent vegetative state, an alleged victim has been abused as a child, an inmate being executed is in pain, and a person being interrogated has been tortured. I argue that as new technologies emerge to better reveal people's experiences, virtually every area of the law should do more to take these experiences into account.


Adam Kolber, founder of the Neuroethics & Law Blog, is a leading scholar of the possible implications of neuroscience for the legal system. He writes at the intersection of criminal law, health law, and neuroethics.