I’m starting my fourth career.
I have not written for a long time. I have not wanted to. I haven’t felt compelled. I’m back.
My first career was physics, and I was fortunate to work at CERN in Geneva for several years. I realized that I just wasn’t smart enough to pursue my childhood passion — theoretical physics. Perhaps if I had studied more while an undergrad at Berkeley, I could have delayed that realization until grad school. Instead, while at CERN, I fell in love with a new field.
Second career — computer science. I originally sought to work in AI, which migrated to visual languages. Visual languages are fascinating because they are written in two dimensions, which means that parsing is more complicated in the abstract. I had written a draft paper discussing the formal language model necessary to parse visual languages; somewhere between context-free and context-sensitive grammars lies the indexed grammars, which I argued was the way to go. That paper and associated adviser evaporated, and I was left to work on digital libraries and general non-text search and, in particular, search evaluation.
That led me to Google in the early days, as the funnest place to work on search. After several wonderful, amazing years, and many lessons learned, it was time to move on. While working on some security matters at Google, the issue came up of selective enforcement, and I realized that I had strong feelings about it. In fact, I realized that I cared deeply about the ways in which society deals with the enforcement of norms.
Third career — law. It was odd to go back to school in my forties to take on a law degree. I was an unusual student. I dressed up as Austin Powers for Halloween. I didn’t care about my grades. One time I went to the finance office to pay my fees, handing them the check. They came back a bit later, looking puzzled — “Mr. Dolin, you’ve already paid your fees this semester.” “Oh,” I responded, “I bet you don’t have that problem very often.” I finished. I passed the CA bar — second try (I was overthinking the essays the first time around and had to get a tutor — it was sheer hell).
I had started doing unusual academic investigations during law school. I played around with damages formulas in contract class. I noticed that the formula for down-round VC financing of startups had some interesting properties and I dropped it into gnuplot to look at it in 3D. After law school, I sat in on privacy and e-discovery classes and started seeing how technology impacted both the practice and nature of law. I had discovered that there was this thing called Legal Informatics and Legal Technology, which I hadn’t been (directly) exposed to in law school. Now I teach “Law 2.0” at Harvard, and I’m (finally) going to publish a textbook on Legal Informatics in which I’m a co-editor and author of 5 chapters.
The relationship between engineering practice and legal practice naturally leads to questions about the adoption of technology, the business and regulatory nature of law, and the philosophical issues related to the trade-offs between efficiency, quality, access, and fairness in the legal system. This work continues.
Fourth Career — TBD.
Each of my prior careers has informed my next career. I will be continuing to teach and do research in legal informatics. But my personal work increasingly involves the dynamic arts — interactive light, music and sound, and video. Furthermore, the philosophical issues expand beyond law. I will no longer limit this site to legal issues only.
Gandhi said, “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I have lived my life mainly as a noun. A body — an object. A particle. I think it’s interesting to think of myself as a verb — as an action. A wave. As many of my prior efforts are finally coming to fruition over the next year, I hope to shift my balance — less particle, more wave. Living as a verb.