The term “epicenter” refers to the point on the Earth’s surface that is directly above the point where an earthquake or underground explosion originates.
We all know that the word epicenter is frequently used outside the context of seismic events. In fact, those who police our language grumble about its overuse.
I cannot count the number of times I have been told that Stanford University and Silicon Valley are the epicenter of the digital revolution, but I don’t think even those who are serious about the use of language should complain. It’s true, there is no surface point that can be matched to a subsurface point of disruption, but this region and this school have created something that is easily analogous to an earthquake—a shaking and shifting of the earth, with unpredictable aftershocks. Of course, it is only an analogy because, unlike seismic disasters, the digital revolution has created countless goods. But it has also created some new concerns.
Our feature story in this issue zeros in on one set of those concerns—the way in which the digital revolution has changed the relationship between the citizen and the state. The world that we now take for granted creates the possibility of wide-scale government surveillance of huge populations and the possibility that law enforcement can reach into every nook and cranny of our lives. Not surprisingly, those at Stanford Law School are at the center of many of the most pressing debates over this new reality and they are featured in our cover story.