Accelerating regulatory review

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Technology is transforming the world more rapidly than ever before. Because of such technological acceleration, our polity faces the possibility of more beneficial and more dangerous events than at any time in human history. To address these coming dangers and benefits, particularly in the area of the environment and health, our regulatory structures must become more nimble and accurate in evaluating technological changes. Because sound regulation thrives on information, the key to regulatory reform is to create legal rules and institutions that will make use of technological advances in information creation, analysis and dispersion. Thus regulation in an era of technological acceleration contains within itself the dynamo of its own management, but only if the rules of social governance permit the information revolution to wash through our democratic and regulatory structures. The rate of technological change has always been an important, albeit largely unrecognized, factor underlying the design of legal and social institutions. The Babylonians chiseled their laws onto diorite steles. This method of legal production reflected a world of technological stasis. Laws did not need to be updated from generation to generation. Democracy itself can be seen as a reaction to the accelerating change of the scientific revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. More oligarchic ways of ruling simply did not generate the information needed to address the new social dilemmas raised by ongoing invention. Democracy, in contrast, unlocked information about the consequences of change by permitting a wide range of citizens to vote on the basis of their own private information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Nanotechnology Challenge
Subtitle of host publicationCreating Legal Institutions for Uncertain Risks
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780511988554
ISBN (Print)9780521767385
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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