Governing Transformative Technological Innovation
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Governing Transformative Technological Innovation

Who’s in Charge?

Peter W.B. Phillips

New technologies often appear to be beyond the control of any existing governing systems. This is especially true for transformative technologies such as information technologies, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. Peter Phillips examines in this book the deep governing structures of transformative technology and innovation in an effort to identify which actors can be expected to act when, under what conditions and to what effect. He analyzes the life cycles of an array of examples where converging technologies have created transformations and supervisory challenges.
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Chapter 4: Governing

Peter W.B. Phillips


Govern, v. 1. To rule with authority, esp. with the authority of a sovereign; to direct and control the actions and affairs of (a people, a state or its members), whether despotically or constitutionally; to rule or regulate the affairs of (a body of men, corporation) . . . To direct and control (a person, the members of a household) with the authority of a superior . . . OED INTRODUCTION Many observers of the information and telecommunications revolution either boast about or bemoan the active governing of the new technology. Depending on the observer, the rapid emergence and dominance of new technologies has been a marvel of the unrestricted market or the result of errors of omission and commission by governments at all levels and in all markets. Putting rhetoric aside, it is reasonable to inquire about how these apparent global transformations come about. At one level, the emergence of waves of new information technologies and applications has appeared to be the result of unfettered markets. Individual entrepreneurs have identified market needs (or anticipated where demand might be generated) and cobbled together packages of equipment, software and content to push into the market. Many of the most prominent advances were extremely informal, involving self-financed, out-of-work engineers tinkering in their garages (such as David Hewlett and William Packard, who established Hewlett-Packard Company in Packard’s garage with an initial capital investment of $538), teenagers working in their parents’ basements (Linux was initially written as a hobby by Finnish university student Linus Torvalds while attending the University of...

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