Edited by Gary E. Marchant, Kenneth W. Abbott and Braden Allenby
Chapter 13: Conclusion: emerging governance for emergent technologies
This book has addressed the governance of emerging technologies. It has examined a number of different technologies, from railroads to robotics, biotechnology to synthetic biology, molecular diagnostics to nanotechnology, and network security to offshore oil well safety. It has looked at different jurisdictions – including the United States, Norway, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The one clear, consistent lesson that emerges from considering the governance of these various technologies in numerous jurisdictions is that traditional government regulation is woefully and inevitably inadequate for managing the risks of emerging technologies. Emerging technologies present several challenges to traditional regulation. First, many emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and robotics are not limited to a single industrial sector like were many previous technologies (for example, motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, chlorofluorocarbons), but rather span multiple industries and a multitude of applications. This resulting diversity of potentially regulated entities and application contexts complicates regulatory efforts by, for example, making it harder to identify and evaluate all companies involved in the technology life-cycle, and to assess the exposures, risks, and control costs of the many different applications. Second, many emerging technologies present unprecedented uncertainty with respect to their risks, benefits and future development. For example, traditional toxicity assays may not work for nanomaterials that may cause harm through novel mechanisms and exposure scenarios. To some, genetically modified foods present unprecedented and unacceptable risks to public health and the environment, whereas to others this represents perhaps the safest technology ever created by humans.
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