Chapter 5: The role of adaptation in the governance of emerging technologies
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The context of this book – derived from workshops on the pacing problem and the utility of soft law in governing emerging technologies – provides a broad platform from which to consider the limits of technology governance. I argue that it is necessary to stretch the scope of the concept governance beyond its normal boundaries in order to fully address the challenges caused by rapidly emerging technologies. This perspective on governance entails that a focus on social adaptation (rather than on the control of technology) is necessary in many instances. I will also show that such focus on adaptation can – ironically – ultimately improve the control of emerging technologies. A few analagous examples from the adaptation to climate change will provide practical models or ideas for implementation. ‘Governance’ is a word with roots in the fourteenth century although it has entered the public policy discourse only relatively recently, approximately 20 years ago. The concept is now often juxtaposed with “government” to emphasize that decision making power and accountability are frequently shared among governments, the private sector, non-government organizations, consumers, and the public at large. The following definition by the non-profit Institute on Governance expresses a succinct concept used by practitioners: “Governance determines who has power, who makes decisions, how other players make their voice heard and how account is rendered.” A important governance element that is perhaps too obvious to be included in a definition is that one always governs toward a goal.

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