Chapter 7: Governing the governance of emerging technologies
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Emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, personalized medicine, synthetic biology, applied neuroscience, geoengineering, social media, surveillance technologies, regenerative medicine, robotics and artificial intelligence present complex governance and oversight challenges. These technologies are characterized by a rapid pace of development, a multitude of applications, manifestations and actors, pervasive uncertainties about risks, benefits and future directions, and demands for oversight ranging from potential health and environmental risks to broader social and ethical concerns. Given this complexity, no single regulatory agency, or even group of agencies, can regulate any of these emerging technologies effectively and comprehensively. What has begun to emerge, and what is inevitable given the complex dynamics of emerging technologies, is a matrix of different government regulatory agencies, statutes, regulations and guidances, supplemented by an even more tangled web of “soft law” approaches such as codes of conduct, statements of principles, partnership programs, voluntary programs and standards, certification programs and private industry initiatives. That is just at the national level – but because these emerging technologies tend to be international in scope and application, the many different national and international regulatory and non-regulatory instruments make the oversight landscape even more complicated. While the diversity of oversight actors, mechanisms, approaches and requirements for any emerging technology are unavoidable at least at this time, it does create problems with regard to coherence, potential overlaps and gaps, and coordination.

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