Edited by Gary E. Marchant, Kenneth W. Abbott and Braden Allenby
Chapter 6: Integrating technology assessment into government technology policy
There is little question that we face substantial challenges in the twenty-first century: climate change, disease, poverty, natural resource depletion and degradation, war and terrorism – the list goes on. Emerging technologies will likely be integral in resolving or mitigating many of these challenges; prominent examples include renewable energy technologies, green chemistry, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and informatics. Government policies often play a significant or even central role in advancing the development and diffusion of such technologies. Yet these policies typically fail to account for the unintended adverse health, environmental, social and other consequences that may flow from those technologies. This chapter starts with the premise that the United States’ technology policy ought to integrate principles of protection and promotion so as to ensure the availability of truly beneficial technologies. It examines the extent to which this integration can be accomplished through technology assessment at the legislative stage of policy formulation. For these purposes, technology assessment refers to the systematic assessment and evaluation of the positive and negative impacts of an ostensibly beneficial technology. Technology assessment has a decades-long history, starting primarily in the United States and more recently establishing itself in Europe. It takes many forms, not all of which will be appropriate for use in legislative settings in the United States. After some definitional matters regarding the notion of technological change, the chapter turns to two specific aspects of government technology policy.
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