, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 11-29
Date: 26 Jul 2007

Possibilities for global governance of converging technologies

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Abstract

The convergence of nanotechnology, modern biology, the digital revolution and cognitive sciences will bring about tremendous improvements in transformative tools, generate new products and services, enable opportunities to meet and enhance human potential and social achievements, and in time reshape societal relationships. This paper focuses on the progress made in governance of such converging, emerging technologies and suggests possibilities for a global approach. Specifically, this paper suggests creating a multidisciplinary forum or a consultative coordinating group with members from various countries to address globally governance of converging, emerging technologies. The proposed framework for governance of converging technologies calls for four key functions: supporting the transformative impact of the new technologies; advancing responsible development that includes health, safety and ethical concerns; encouraging national and global partnerships; and establishing commitments to long-term planning and investments centered on human development. Principles of good governance guiding these functions include participation of all those who are forging or affected by the new technologies, transparency of governance strategies, responsibility of each participating stakeholder, and effective strategic planning. Introduction and management of converging technologies must be done with respect for immediate concerns, such as privacy, access to medical advancements, and potential human health effects. At the same time, introduction and management should also be done with respect for longer-term concerns, such as preserving human integrity, dignity and welfare. The suggested governance functions apply to four levels of governance: (a) adapting existing regulations and organizations; (b) establishing new programs, regulations and organizations specifically to handle converging technologies; (c) building capacity for addressing these issues into national policies and institutions; and (d) making international agreements and partnerships. Several possibilities for improving the governance of converging technologies in the global self-regulating ecosystem are recommended: using open-source and incentive-based models, establishing corresponding science and engineering platforms, empowering the stakeholders and promoting partnerships among them, implementing long-term planning that includes international perspectives, and institute voluntary and science-based measures for risk management.

The opinions in this chapter reflect those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of NSF.