Coordinating Technology Governance
A new institutional mechanism is needed to serve as an issue manager to coordinate and inform responses to emerging technologies with powerful social implications.
This spring, a new but widely available technology for editing genomes called CRISPR suddenly burst into public view, making headlines around the world. A group of Chinese researchers published a paper describing their attempt, using CRISPR, to modify a blood disorder–causing gene in nonviable human embryos. Although the scientists emphasized that the method is not yet ready for medical applications, CRISPR technology is far superior to previous techniques for precisely splicing and editing genomic information. But not only might CRSPR hold the potential to cure genetic ailments, its successful development might also lead to the capacity to directly modify the human germline, and thus human evolution. The implications of emerging synthetic biology technologies such as CRISPR are thus profound—not just for medicine but for the future of our species. How might democratic societies provide oversight, cultivate public debate, and evaluate the ethical, legal, social, and economic ramifications of CRISPR and other important new technologies? We propose the creation of a new coordinating body, which we refer to as a Governance Coordination Committee (GCC), to fulfill this urgent need.
Emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, synthetic biology, applied neuroscience, geoengineering, regenerative medicine, robotics, and artificial intelligence involve a complex mix of applications, risks, benefits, uncertainties, stakeholders, and public concerns. As a result, no single entity is capable of fully governing any of these multifaceted and rapidly developing fields and the innovative tools and techniques they produce. A diverse set of governance actors, programs, instruments, and influences apply to each form of technology. Within the federal government alone, regulations, guidance documents, studies, and reports produced by several different agencies; White House Executive Orders and reports; congressional overview; and decisions by the Supreme Court all affect technology policy. This is augmented by decisions from lower courts, state and local government actions, and assessments and recommendations from scientific and policy commissions and advisory committees. Furthermore, the business community can shape the governance of an innovative technology through industry-wide stewardship programs, public/private partnerships, and individual companies that set their own standards and establish their own risk management programs. Other stakeholders provide input through think tanks, international standard-setting bodies, statements of principles and recommendations by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), scholarly articles, certification bodies, codes of conduct, voluntary programs proposed by a variety of organizations, media coverage, and public opinion.
With so many actors and pronouncements in the governance space for any given emerging technology, the result is predictable: inconsistent recommendations, duplication of efforts, and general confusion lead to valuable contributions falling through the cracks or being lost in the cacophony of voices. A current example is hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), where literally hundreds of industry groups and companies; governmental entities at the federal, state, and local levels; NGOs; scientific and academic experts; think tanks; and local citizen groups are flooding the public discussion space with a range of arguments, studies, concerns, and positions, with no forum to bring these disparate voices together. This lack of coordination fosters unnecessary complexity that undermines effective governance, as well as a muddled approach to whatever governance is put in place—a muddle that calls out for some form of coordinating entity or function.
Take, for example, the development of nanotechnology policy in the United States in the first decade of this century. A plethora of groups, meetings, and networks were simultaneously working separately on the same issues of nanotechnology governance. Multiple federal agencies were involved, coordinated to a large extent through the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which also convened various stakeholder meetings. The Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies emerged as another locus of important activity, issuing a series of significant reports on nanotechnology governance and again convening various meetings of stakeholders. The International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) was created as a multistakeholder forum to discuss and advance nanotechnology safety and governance. Centers for Nanotechnology and Society, created by the National Science Foundation at universities such as Arizona State University and the University of California–Santa Barbara, generated research and ideas for nanotechnology governance and also created new opportunities and approaches for stakeholder engagement. A multitude of nongovernmental voluntary governance initiatives were created or proposed, such as the DuPont–Environmental Defense Fund Nano Risk Framework. Various NGOs issued their own recommendations and proposed frameworks for nanotechnology regulation and governance. Standard-setting bodies such as ISO, ASTM, and IEEE created additional spaces where safety and governance proposals were debated and developed. And on and on. In some ways, this diversity and number of entities, forums, and initiatives was a strength. Yet there was no coordination or synergy between these disparate efforts that might have reached a critical mass to make a real difference—something a coordinated committee might have achieved.
Indeed, a number of recent commentaries have advocated for the establishment of a coordinating body to provide oversight for various different emerging technologies. For example, in a report on the numerous voluntary programs that have sprung up to help manage nanotechnology, Daniel Fiorini, a long-time Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expert on alternative regulatory approaches who is now at American University, proposes the creation of a “Nano Stewardship Council” that would “provide an ongoing, neutral forum for discussions on nanotechnology policy issues and options and [serve as] a clearinghouse for information.” Similarly, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues called for the formation of a “coordinating body” within the government for synthetic biology that, among other things, would “(1) leverage existing resources by providing ongoing and coordinated review of developments in synthetic biology, (2) ensure that regulatory requirements are consistent and non-contradictory, and (3) periodically and on a timely basis inform the public of its findings.” David Winickoff and Mark Brown, writing in this magazine, also called for a new government advisory committee to coordinate the governance of geoengineering research. Susan Ehrlich, a retired appellate judge and charter member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosafety, has emphasized the need for a new autonomous advisory commission to coordinate governance of dual-use research. Ryan Calo, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law specializing in cyberlaw, proposes the creation of a federal robotics commission to coordinate robotics policy.
Governance Coordination Committees
The structure and function of these various proposed coordinating entities, while varied, all focus on the core need to coordinate the stakeholders, proposals, and diverse issues posed by the governance of individual emerging technologies. We propose that this need for a coordinating entity can best be met with the creation of GCCs. In essence, a GCC would be an issue manager. It would act like an orchestra conductor and attempt to harmonize and integrate the various governance approaches that have been implemented or proposed. Its functions would be wide-ranging.
Among these functions would be the collection of, and reporting on, information concerning existing governance programs for a specific technological field and the identification of gaps, overlaps, and inconsistencies within existing and proposed programs. In monitoring the development of a technology, the GCC would give particular attention to underscoring the gaps in the existing regulatory regime that pose serious risks. It would search, in concert with the various stakeholders, methods to address those gaps and risks. For example, a GCC overseeing the introduction of drones into domestic airspace might flag the issues and expenses that would not be addressed by the Federal Aviation Administration. It could consult with industry, legislatures, and advocacy groups to forge methods to manage and pay for the oversight of privacy and surveillance concerns.
A GCC could provide a forum for stakeholders to deliberate on governance issues and to produce recommendations, reports, and roadmaps. And the GCC would serve as a trusted “go-to” source for stakeholders, the media, and the public to acquire information about the technology and its governance.
In the following sections we address the characteristics of emerging technologies that necessitate this type of novel coordinating entity. We also present examples of precursor coordinating institutions, the possible structure and operation of the GCCs, and responses to some of the most obvious challenges for implementing this proposal.
Different emerging technologies each present their unique sets of issues and regulatory challenges, but also share some features in common. The concerns raised by many emerging technologies go well beyond the health and environmental risks traditionally covered by regulatory statutes, to also include broader ethical, social, and economic concerns, including privacy, fairness, ownership, and human enhancement issues. The benefits of many technologies are highly uncertain, and their risks are often contested. The increasing number and diversity of research trajectories, applications, and participants within each emerging technology category have complicated matters further because, unlike previous fields of innovation, most emerging technologies are not limited to a single industry sector or application. More important, each of the major emerging technologies is progressing at a faster pace than can be handled by traditional governmental regulatory oversight, which appears to be slowing down rather than speeding up.
Traditional forms of government regulation are too slow, ossified, and limited to provide comprehensive and meaningful oversight of emerging technologies. Given these limitations, monitoring and managing the development of emerging technologies requires a governance model that acts quickly and more efficiently than traditional forms of oversight and regulation. Effective governance will expand the circle of responsibility for managing a problem beyond government regulators to encompass other entities, including industry, NGOs, insurers, think tanks, courts, and additional national and international institutions. Government regulation must still play an essential role. Nonetheless, other entities can share responsibility and supplement governmental oversight with various types of “soft law” mechanisms, including codes of conduct, public/private partnership programs, voluntary programs and standards, guidelines, certification schemes, and a variety of other industry initiatives.
Soft law approaches offer many potential benefits. First, they tend to be participatory, cooperative, reflexive, and adaptive. They can involve a mixture of tools and invoke resources and responsibility at multiple levels and from multiple parties. Of course, these soft law approaches also have their weaknesses. They are generally unenforceable and do not ensure full participation by targeted industries. Furthermore, they fail to offer the procedural opportunities and protections for public participation that are provided by traditional government regulation. But the shortcomings of traditional regulatory mechanisms, such as endless litigation and a damaging blurring of the boundaries between science and politics, mean that soft law approaches will be an inevitable component of any successful governance of emerging technologies.
Soft law programs can be plagued by big coordination problems. The presence of numerous soft law initiatives for the same emerging technology is all too common. For example, there are over a dozen significant soft law initiatives for nanotechnology, such as the DuPont-EDF Nano Risk Framework discussed above and the European Union Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research. This proliferation of diverse soft law approaches and proposals is a function of their strength. Soft governance initiatives are not limited to centralized federal agencies, but rather can be launched by any entity or coalition of organizations as was the case for the International Council on Nanotechnology described above. What is important but lacking is a credible approach to facilitate the coordination of the independent concerns and actions of these nongovernmental entities; specifically, one able to reconcile these soft law initiatives not only with each other but also with traditional government regulation.
In sum, the governance of emerging technologies has generally proceeded in a fragmented fashion. Government agencies and developers of soft law programs propose new oversight initiatives one piece at a time, with little regard to how different initiatives affect the same technology. The fragmented response to the recent announcement of the Chinese CRISPR experiment, the pronouncements of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk about the potential existential dangers of artificial intelligence, and even the crash landing of a small drone on the White House lawn in early 2015 should raise serious doubts as to whether the problematic challenges posed by the rapid and unpredictable emergence of new technological possibilities and developments has been, or will be, effectively managed and monitored by this piecemeal, incremental approach. In his observation of biotechnology, technology regulatory expert Gregory Mandel of Temple Law School perceives the lack of coordination to be one of the biggest challenges. He notes, “The multiplicity of statutes and agencies has created confusion among regulated industry and the public, reduced clarity regarding scientific standards and requirements, and retarded the efficiency of biotechnology development and regulation.” This holds true for all new and complex technologies.
Emerging technologies require a coordinated, holistic, and nimble approach, while not sacrificing diligence in overseeing discernible dangers. In short, emerging technologies need an issue manager to orchestrate and serve as the central hub for the various parts that contribute to the governance of that technology. Our societies do not have a lot of experience or models for managing such complex technologies, because in the past most technology issues, whether it be chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere, the safety of medical devices, or worker exposure to asbestos, could be dealt with by a single government agency and a discrete group of companies and NGOs. Even then, our regulatory systems were challenged and overextended in many cases, as evidenced by the thousands of untested and unreviewed chemicals in commerce today. It will be even more difficult to effectively manage today’s emerging technologies, which bring with them much more complex and diverse sets of risks, applications, and stakeholders. Nevertheless, there are a handful of relevant institutional precedents that may be helpful in planning for GCCs.
Although a formal coordinating entity of the type proposed here has yet to be established, there are numerous examples of institutions serving as de facto coordinating bodies, even when their initial institutional objectives were more limited. For example, as discussed above, several entities filled, either intentionally or by default, the need for policy coordination within nanotechnology. ICON is perhaps the closest real-world attempt to implement the type of coordinating functions we propose here. ICON sought to involve a wide range of stakeholders in an effort to “develop and communicate information regarding potential environmental and health risks of nanotechnology.” Although no longer active, its activities included sponsoring multistakeholder forums to better understand the health and environmental risks of nanotechnology. ICON created an online database and virtual journal of published studies on the risks of nanomaterials, and an online wiki site called the GoodNanoGuide, which listed best practices for handling nanomaterials. Its main source of funding was a $50,000-per-year membership fee from industry members; as a result some NGOs expressed concern and were reluctant to participate. The primary difference between ICON and the GCCs proposed here is that ICON focused primarily on the scientific and risk management aspects of the technology. A GCC would give greater emphasis to the variety of governmental and nongovernmental oversight and governance mechanisms that are in place or have been proposed.
Another precedent is the series of entities that have served as a de facto issue manager for specific emerging technologies, such as the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology (2001–2007) and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (2005–2011). These projects became focal points in the governance of the technology they each individually addressed by issuing influential reports, identifying key gaps and needs in regulatory programs, and serving as a forum for stakeholders to deliberate about the technology.
The committees established by the National Research Council (NRC) to issue consensus reports on controversial or emerging science and technology issues provide another relevant point of comparison. Both the proposed GCCs and the NRC committees seek to provide a credible, honest-broker forum for addressing controversy, but they do it in quite different, if complementary, ways. The NRC committees assemble 12 to 20 leading experts without a direct stake in an issue to meet for a limited time (usually periodic meetings over a one- to two-year time frame) to deliberate, partially behind closed doors, and produce a consensus report on the issue at hand. In contrast, the GCC would directly engage the stakeholders, sometimes numbering in the hundreds of organizations and entities, to interact in a transparent way to promote communication, understanding, and the narrowing of differences without an express expectation of consensus. The effective role that NRC committees perform in bringing order out of chaos on a controversial issue again demonstrates the value of the coordinating function that a GCC could provide, whether or not an NRC committee has been convened for the same issue.
These precedents and examples all achieved some success in providing a coordinating function, whether by design or not, and demonstrate the importance of these functions for an emerging technology. Nevertheless, none of the various institutions described here attempted or achieved the full range of coordinating activities and tasks that the GCCs would fulfill. Moreover, the proliferation of coordinating entities for a single technology undermines the objective of having a single, central, coordinating hub.
Although the examples mentioned above have all made substantial contributions to the governance of specific emerging technologies, they are each limited in different ways in their scope, activities, visibility, participation, and longevity with respect to a nationwide coordinating function. A more comprehensive, inclusive, high-profile, and stable entity is necessary to fill the coordination gap in the governance of emerging technologies.
The influence and effectiveness of a GCC in meeting the critical need for a central coordinating entity will depend on its ability to establish itself as an honest broker that is respected by all relevant stakeholders. For example, it can provide an industry with a roadmap that clarifies acceptable risk management practices for the responsible governance of a technology. Similarly, the executive and legislative branches of government are likely to take seriously the recommendations of the GCCs if they consider these committees to be credible and diligent. A GCC will need to be vigilant in not usurping the authority of regulatory agencies, but rather focus on pointing out gaps or potential synergies in regulatory frameworks. Perhaps most important, if GCCs can establish a reputation for fairness and effectiveness in the earliest stages of an emerging technology’s development, they may build the legitimacy necessary to merit the trust of interested members of the public and civil society groups.
In seeking an appropriate means to address a gap in oversight that might expose the public to dangers, the staff of a GCC could draw upon an array of different governmental and nongovernmental approaches and mechanisms. The committees would be mandated to first look for solutions within soft governance mechanisms, and turn to laws and regulations only once all other solutions are determined to be impossible to put in place or insufficient. A GCC with adequate influence might even be able to play various stakeholders off against each other. For example, in proposing that an industry establish a vehicle for self-governance to address a potential danger, the GCC could indicate that the alternative laws and oversight agencies it would propose to the legislature are likely to be more bureaucratic and less adaptive. A legislature, cognizant that the GCC looked first for other means to remedy a problem, would be more likely to look favorably on the proposals that a GCC brought to its attention.
To forge a comprehensive understanding of the challenges posed by a new technology, the staff of a GCC will not only require exposure to research done by scientists and social scientists, but must also listen to concerns raised by social critics and NGOs. Engaged public stakeholders have become increasingly motivated and well organized in participating in technological decision making on problems ranging from breast cancer screening to genetically modified foods to energy technology choices, and the effectiveness of GCCs will be strongly dependent on their ability to bring such voices into their deliberative processes. In turn, the GCC will probably submit recommendations to federal agencies and foundations regarding research that needs to be performed to better manage the potential risks and ethical and social challenges arising from new technologies.
Emerging technologies need an issue manager to orchestrate and serve as the central hub for the various parts that contribute to the governance of that technology.
The private sector will also be a critical participant in GCCs, because many of the key decisions on commercializing emerging technologies are made inside companies. Furthermore, they can provide the expertise and resources that are likely to be critical for a GCC to succeed. If the GCC is structured in a way that provides a forum for evidence-based and nonadversarial dialogue for sharing ideas and concerns, companies should have the necessary incentive to actively support and participate in GCCs. Gone are the days when a company could plow ahead unilaterally with the deployment of potentially controversial technologies. Modern companies understand the necessity of engagement with the public and stakeholders, and would benefit from a process that signals what technology applications are likely to be broadly acceptable and which may be problematic. They will appreciate guidance as to whether and how those problematic applications might be made more acceptable by adjustments or appropriate stewardship measures. A GCC could serve these vital needs of private companies and their investors.
Moreover, the GCC may be helpful in modulating the rate of development of an emerging technology. Just as an economy can stagnate or overheat, so also can technological development. For example, a potentially transformative industry may need to be stimulated in the form of coordinated funding for research. Or to overcome uncertainties that are standing as barriers to development, the private and public sectors might jointly develop critical infrastructure, standards, or test methods. In addition, research and development can be stimulated by bringing companies together to seek collaborative solutions for patent “thickets” that may be blocking innovation. On the other hand, there will be occasions when an emerging technology could spawn an array of societal problems that will need to be addressed before innovative products should be deployed.
For example, take artificial intelligence. No regulatory agency has jurisdiction or programs addressing the potential risks of this powerful technology that holds so much promise. Yet, as we’ve mentioned, prominent scientists and technologists such as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk are raising concerns about the potential future direction and adverse effects of this technology. A GCC could fill the urgent gap in our ability to consider, debate, and address such concerns.
It would be an illusion to think that a GCC, or any other body, could resolve these problems altogether. However, through advice, influence, and building rapport among stakeholders, a GCC could play a key role in modulating the development and deployment of new technologies. Today, no single institution is positioned to play such a role.
Another function of a GCC would be to serve as a central repository for the publicly available science and the research on the social challenges and issues posed by the field of technology it oversees. The GCC would not generate new data itself but would act as a clearinghouse to organize and make available relevant data and studies produced by a variety of other organizations. Depending on what its funds permit, a GCC might commission external reviews or analyses of existing data sets to provide assessments of what is or is not known about a particular technology. Or it could collect and integrate stakeholder views of concerns, benefits, policies, and future projections relating to the technology in question. The precedent set by the Wilson Center–Pew Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies may provide a useful model, particularly in making available a public database with a series of influential reports on the emerging science of nanotechnology. Other examples of online databases include Pharos, GreenScreen, and ChemHAT, which provide information about chemical toxicity aimed at allowing private-sector firms and consumers to make safer decisions about substances and processes they use.
The public and the media often have great difficulty in knowing who is credible and whether various potential harms are real or merely speculative. A GCC might be able to provide some clarity through snapshots and reports that capture the state of a technology’s development and when critical thresholds are about to be crossed. Although it will not be possible to eliminate the challenges and controversies inevitably associated with limited and contested knowledge, a semi-authoritative committee report would nevertheless facilitate determinations as to which harms are imminent and which are highly speculative or dependent on future scientific discoveries. In addition, the GCC would be monitoring the literature and studies from a variety of perspectives and disciplines, and serve as a clearinghouse for important new data and viewpoints. Members of the press could read reports from the GCC or interview representatives of the GCC as a way of grounding their articles about a wide variety of societal concerns arising from the introduction of new technologies.
A current example where such a function may be useful is genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are legitimate concerns about GMOs, such as the spread of herbicide resistance, cross-contamination with organic and non-GMO crops, potential economic effects on small farmers here and in developing countries, international trade conflicts, and even the effects of GMOs on the taste, quality, and availability of some foods. There are also many alarms and claims, mostly spread through social media that appear to be frivolous and inconsistent with current scientific evidence. A GCC could help journalists, citizens, regulators, and even expert participants in industry, NGOs, and government to focus on the most serious concerns and issues.
However, as a result of all the noise and confusion over the past two decades, without any entity providing the type of moderating and convening role a GCC could have provided, the GMO issue has now become highly polarized and charged. Moreover, unlike, say, the National Academies/NRC, which must focus on technical questions and is limited in its recommendations to matters of expert consensus, GCCs could explicitly acknowledge and make clear the cultural, political, and socioeconomic aspects of disagreements over emerging technologies.
In addition to a GCC for each emerging technology, it would be useful to form a governing council for representatives of GCCs for different technologies to compare approaches, successes, and failures; to note issues that might affect multiple technologies; and to identify cross-technology or convergence concerns that give rise to new challenges. In some cases, it will also be necessary for a GCC to coordinate its activities with that of similar bodies from other countries in order to initiate and promote harmonized approaches to the governance of specific technologies such as, for example, geoengineering.
Challenges and concerns
Creating new institutions is always a challenging task and should not be undertaken lightly. Although there are obvious difficulties in establishing effective GCCs, the transformative potential of a number of powerful emerging technologies signals the overriding need for such a coordination mechanism and justifies trying to address and overcome these issues. For example, the success and effectiveness of any new body in coordinating the activities of various stakeholders will depend on those parties perceiving cooperation as being in their best interest. This suggests that it could be more challenging for a GCC to make progress once a technology has become highly polarized, as might be the case now with genetically modified foods. However, it may be more successful, at least as an initial experiment, in helping to manage an emerging technology where ideological positions have not yet solidified, such as artificial intelligence/robotics or synthetic biology.
There are many additional practical and implementation questions that would need to be answered. For example, from where does the GCC get its power (influence), authority, or legitimacy? How are the constituent members and staff of a GCC chosen? How would the GCC be governed and overseen? How can its credibility be established? To whom is the GCC accountable? Would it be better if a GCC were a government institution? Or private? Or a private/public partnership? And probably most problematic, from where will the GCC receive its funding?
Although we will not attempt to offer comprehensive answers to these implementation questions here, some preliminary thoughts are provided. The effectiveness of a GCC will be largely determined by perceptions of its credibility and its usefulness to the government, technology developers, industry, NGOs, the media, and the public. In other words, there is circularity where influence, authority, and credibility all affect each other. Certainly each of these could, at least in theory, be built over time. But in contemporary society, influence and credibility do not come easily. It would be helpful if individuals who already have a high degree of respect and credibility, such as retired leaders of industry, the government, the military, or academia, took on the establishment of a GCC as a personal mission. Clearly the selection of a credible and respected leader for a GCC will be critical for establishing its bona fides.
There is no single model for how the GCCs might be funded or managed. One option would be legislation providing funding for creating one or more GCCs, perhaps as a pilot project. Another option is for a private foundation to provide funding. Yet a third option would be some sort of combination funding, similar to that of the Health Effects Institute, which is co-funded by the EPA and the auto industry. Finally, funding could be provided through membership fees from industry, as was the case with ICON. Industry funding alone, however, would probably not be a good model because of actual or perceived conflicts of interest, although even here there may be innovative approaches to structure the industry funding to ensure no undue influence. For example, several industry groups, such as the cellphone industry, have funded safety research by creating an intermediary entity composed of credible neutral experts to allocate the funds to try to minimize the reality and perception of funder influence.
The process for the selection of leadership and the number of staff hired for a GCC would, in all probability, be influenced by its funding model. Finally, some sort of advisory or steering committee, composed of representatives of relevant stakeholders, including government, industry, NGOs, the public, scientists, social scientists, and concerned citizens, would also be helpful in building and maintaining credibility and relevance.
We recognize that these practical issues and concerns might make some believe that establishing an effective and credible GCC in the contemporary political context is either too complicated, hopelessly naive, or perhaps both. We contend that the implementation issues can be worked out. Modern governments and private institutions have been capable of implementing complicated solutions to difficult problems once the need is fully recognized. Unfortunately, all too often this occurs only after a tragedy and the realization that similar calamities will occur if protective measures are not put into place. Such shortsightedness and reactive policymaking make more-anticipatory and future-oriented strategies challenging, but not impossible.
A GCC offers a different and more comprehensive approach to monitor, manage, and modulate an emerging technology. As a first step, we recommend implementing a GCC as a pilot project for one or more relatively new technological fields that are not yet encumbered by a large network of oversight bodies, regulatory programs, and adversarial relations. Given the high social and scientific standing of those voicing concerns about artificial intelligence/robotics or synthetic biology, these would be good candidates for pilot projects.
Although there are risks in the GCC approach, we think those risks are worth taking. A new and more ambitious form of governance coordination is one of the most pressing needs for many emerging technologies. Although there may be other (as yet largely undefined) approaches for performing this much-needed coordination function, the GCC is an idea that would be useful to try. A pilot project offers the opportunity to work out the implementation challenges, as well as the opportunity to witness whether GCCs can be a comprehensive, coherent, and effective means of governing the governance of emerging technologies.
Gary Marchant () is Regents’ Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, where he directs the Center for Law, Science, and Innovation. Wendell Wallach () is a scholar at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. His book A Dangerous Master: How to Keep Technology from Slipping Beyond our Control (Basic Books, 2015) has just been published.
David Baltimore et al., “A Prudent Path Forward for Genomic Engineering and Germline Gene Modification,” Science 348, no. 6230 (2015): 36–38.
Susan A. Ehrlich, “H5N1: A Cautionary Tale,” Frontiers in Public Health 2, article 117 (2014): 1–3.
Gregory N. Mandel, “Regulating Emerging Technologies,” Law, Innovation & Technology 1, no. 1 (2009): 75–92.
Gary E. Marchant and Wendell Wallach, “Governing the Governance of Emerging Technologies,” in Innovative Governance Models For Emerging Technologies, Gary E. Marchant, Kenneth W. Abbott, and Braden Allenby, eds. (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2013): 136–152.
Presidential Commission For The Study Of Bioethical Issues New Directions, The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies (December 2010); available at .
David E. Winickoff and Mark B. Brown, “Time for a Government Advisory Committee on Geoengineering Research,” Issues in Science & Technology (Summer 2013): 79–85.