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Meet a Colleague: Joshua Fairfield Joshua Fairfield is the William Bain Family Professor of Law and the Director of AI Legal Innovation Strategy at W&L Law School.

Josh_Fairfield06-800x533 Meet a Colleague: Joshua FairfieldJoshua Fairfield

Joshua Fairfield is the William Bain Family Professor of Law and the Director of AI Legal Innovation Strategy at W&L Law School. He grew up in Harrisonburg and Bridgewater, and loves living close to his family in the Shenandoah Valley. He has written extensively on law and technology, and has a longstanding focus on digital property, crypto assets, privacy, and artificial intelligence. He is married to Christine Fairfield, who teaches as a Lecturer in Music at W&L and is the Executive Director of The Oratorio Society of Virginia. Christine and Joshua have four children, Mary, Maggie, Hannah, and Grace. The entire family enjoys playing videogames, board games, and roleplaying games.

Q. Where is your favorite location on the W&L campus?
The Natatorium is my favorite place at W&L. I try to swim most days and the peace of the water helps my mind focus. I can think more clearly when I swim, and letting the world fall away while I move through the water is one of the best feelings. And, it helps burn off the adrenaline I build up throughout the day.

Q. What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
There are so many things. I love to read scientific studies on some subject I’m interested in, read books (science fiction is a favorite), listen to heavy metal (I’m going to a Metallica concert for the first time this year!), and watch documentaries. But my favorite thing is to play pen-and-paper roleplaying games with close friends.

Q. Book/Podcast/TV Show Recommendation?
Book: Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention, which explains how much damage algorithmic engagement and mobile delivery are doing to our ability to think.
Podcast: Planet Money
TV Show: Fitch (an Australian comedy about a law office, not to be missed!)

Q. What course are you teaching this semester?
1L Property

Q. What research are you currently working on?
I’m writing a paper on what happened when algorithmic management, corporate surveillance, and bossware followed work-from-home workers into their houses during the pandemic, and what law should do to ensure workers have the private time and space to live a thriving life. I’m getting ready to go on sabbatical to finish a book on how social media failed to bring us closer together, and what will happen as AI takes over social media spaces. I write on emerging legal issues in cryptocurrency, and I’m doing work on artificial intelligence and language – how generative AI will change how we speak, and how we come to agreement, and therefore, how we make law.

Q. Who inspired you to teach?
My parents – my mother was a lawyer, and my father was a computer science professor, so obviously I decided to be a law professor. Both of my parents were exceptional teachers, and learning from them left me with a strong sense that I should pass on their legacy of making hard problems simple. My goal has always been to take the hardest questions and provide a way for everyone to think about them. There’s no such thing as a question or a thought that is out of reach.

Q. If you could have coffee or tea with one person, who would it be and why?
Philosopher Mary Midgley, who is the clearest thinker I have yet encountered, and whose work on norms and the history of science have provided powerful impetus for my own thinking on how we can develop new legal norms to meet changing technological circumstances.

Q. What is an accomplishment you are proud of?
Obviously being a part of my family is the biggest. Beyond that, I’m extremely proud of my 2021 book from Cambridge University Press, Runaway Technology: Can Law Keep Up? which shows how law can stay ahead of rapidly changing technology.

Q. Favorite food/restaurant/drink?
Favorite food: Sashimi.
Favorite restaurant: Kathy’s, in Staunton—it’s been the best diner in the Valley for decades.
Favorite drink: a flat white coffee made in Wellington, New Zealand.

Q. Most used/enjoyable app on your phone?
Signal: as an attorney, keeping communications confidential and encrypted is profoundly important.

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