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Regulating Technologies

30 Mar 2009

Roger Brownsword argues that the emergence of a raft of rapidly developing technologies (ICTs, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies and neurotechnologies), together with the prospect of significant convergence between some or all of these technologies, should be of major concern to the legal community.

One set of questions focuses on the regulatory environment in which these technologies first emerge before developing and moving on:

  • What contribution can lawyers make to ensuring that the regulatory environment is fit for purpose?

  • How well does law perform in controlling for the risks presented by these technologies?

  • How well does it perform in supporting the research, development, and distribution of these technologies?

A second set of questions relates to the use by regulators of various kinds of technological fix, including fixing opportunities presented by developments in these emerging technologies. In addition to checking that technological fixes are legitimate and effective, what should the legal community make of the possibility that technology might displace law as an instrument of social control?

In short, lawyers should be concerned to contribute to debates about getting the regulatory environment right for emerging technologies, but they should also be concerned about the implications of technology and design replacing law as a channelling mechanism.

This lecture is part of a series organised in collaboration with the Society for
Computers and Law (SCL) to provide a platform for leading international scholars to address
emerging legal issues concerning the Internet: its use, governance and

Society for Computers and Law (SCL)