The Growing Gap Between Emerging Technologies and the Law

  • Gary E. Marchant
Part of the The International Library of Ethics, Law and Technology book series (ELTE, volume 7)


Emerging technologies are developing at an ever accelerating pace, whereas legal mechanisms for potential oversight are, if anything, slowing down. Legislation is often gridlocked, regulation is frequently ossified, and judicial proceedings are sometimes described as proceeding at a glacial pace. There are two consequences of this mismatch between the speeds of technology and law. First, some problems are overseen by regulatory frameworks that are increasingly obsolete and outdated. Second, other problems lack any meaningful oversight altogether. To address this growing gap between law and regulation, new legal tools, approaches and mechanisms will be needed. Business as usual will not suffice.


Emerging technologies Law and technology Technology regulation Technology acceleration Legal reform 


  1. Allenby, Braden R. 2005. Reconstructing earth: Technology and environment in the age of humans. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  2. Allenby, Braden R. 1999. Industrial ecology: Policy framework and implementation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  3. Baker, Debra 1999. Catching up to science. American Bar Association Journal 88 (Dec.): 88.Google Scholar
  4. Bartlett Foote, Susan, and Robert J. Berlin. 2005. Can regulation be as innovative as science and technology? The FDA’s regulation of combination products. Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology 6: 619, 620–623.Google Scholar
  5. Berger, Warren E. 1967. Reflections on law and experimental medicine. UCLA Law Review 15: 436–442.Google Scholar
  6. Berndt, Ernst R., E.R. Dulberger, and N.J. Rappaport. 2000. Price and quality of desktop and mobile personal computers: A quarter century of history, 17 July 2000).Google Scholar
  7. Blais, Lynn E., and Wendy E. Wagner. 2008. Emerging science, adaptive regulation, and the problem of rulemaking ruts. Texas Law Review 86: 1701–1739.Google Scholar
  8. Brand, Stewart. 1999. The Clock of the long now. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  9. Burk, Dan, and Mark Lemley. 2003. Policy levers in patent law. Virginia Law Review 89: 1575, 1575–1696.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Caldart, Charles C., and Nicholas A. Ashford. 1999. Negotiations as a means of developing and implementing environmental and occupational health and safety policy. Harvard Environmental Law Review 23: 141–202.Google Scholar
  11. Campbell, Bradley M. 2008. Landmarks and land mines. The Environmental Forum (Nov./Dec.): 30–35.Google Scholar
  12. Cardozo, Benjamin N. (1960). The nature of the legal process (Yale Paperbound ed 1960).Google Scholar
  13. Carlson, Robert. 2003. The pace and proliferation of biological technologies. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science 1: 203, 203–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carr, Geoffrey 2010. Biology 2.0. The Economist (June 19, Supp: 1–3).Google Scholar
  15. Commission of the European Communities. (2009). Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Third Strategic Review of Better Regulation in the European Union, COM(2009) 15 final.Google Scholar
  16. Eibert, Mark D. 2002. Human cloning: Myths, medical benefits and constitutional rights, Hastings Law Journal 53: 1097.Google Scholar
  17. European Commission. 2010. Better Regulation. available at
  18. Falkner, Gerda, Oliver Treib, Miriam Hartlapp, and Simone Leiber. (2005). Complying with Europe: EU harmonisation and soft law in the member states. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kong Fong, I. 2001. Law and new technology: The virtues of muddling through. Yale Law & Policy Review 19: 443, 443–461.Google Scholar
  20. Garfinkel, Simson. Oct 2002. An RFID bill of rights. Technology Review 35 available at
  21. Garreau, Joel. 2001. Science’s mything links: As the boundaries of reality expand, our thinking seems to be going over the edge. Washington Post Cl (July 23).Google Scholar
  22. Garreau, Joel. 2005. Radical evolution. New York, NY: Random House).Google Scholar
  23. Genbank 2010. GenBank Overview: What is Genbank? available at Accessed 14 July 2010.
  24. ICANN (undated). ICANN Factsheet. available at
  25. International Risk Governance Council (IRGC). 2007. Nanotechnology risk governance. IRGC: Geneva.Google Scholar
  26. Internet Systems Consortium, ISC Domain Survey: Number of Internet Hosts. 2008.
  27. Jaffe, Adam B., and Josh Lerner.2004. Innovation and Its discontents: How our broken patent system is endangering innovation and progress, and what to do about it. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Jasanoff, Sheila. 1995. Science at the bar: Law, science, and technology in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Johnson, Stephen M. 2008. Ossification’s demise? An empirical analysis of EPA rulemaking from 2001–2005. Environmental Law 38: 767–792.Google Scholar
  30. Jordan, W.S., III. 2000. Ossification revisited: Does arbitrary and capricious review significantly interfere with agency ability to achieve regulatory goals through informal rulemaking? Northwestern University Law Review 94: 393–450.Google Scholar
  31. Jurvetson, Steve. 2004. Transcending Moore’s law with molecular electronics and nanotechnology. Nanotechnology Law & Business 1: 70–90.Google Scholar
  32. Kahn, Matthew E. 2007. Environmental disasters as risk regulation catalysts? The role of Bhopal, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, Love Canal, and Three Mile Island in Shaping US environmental law. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 35: 17–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kelly, James J. 2008. President of the Food and Drug Law Institute, quoted in David J. Hanson, FDA Confronts Nanotechnology, Chemical & Engineering News, 17 March 2008, at 32–34.Google Scholar
  34. Kingdon, John W. 1995. Agendas, alternatives, and public policies, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Educational Publishers.Google Scholar
  35. Koven, Steven G. 1992. Base closings and the politics-administration dichotomy revisited. Public Administration Review 52: 526–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kurzweil, Ray. 2003. Exponential growth an illusion?: Response to Ilkka Tuomi, essay (September 23)
  37. Kurzweil, Ray. 2005. The singularity is near: When humans transcend biology. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  38. LaForte, Amy J. 2004. Bone Morphogenetic Protein Combination Products and Orthopedic Repair, in Nat’l Research Council. Proceedings From The Workshop On Science-Based Assessment: Accelerating Product Development Of Combination Medical Devices 15 (Bonnie A. Scarborough ed).Google Scholar
  39. Laws, Elliott P. 2008. Regulators facing a brave new world, The environmental forum. July/August 2008, at 14.Google Scholar
  40. Levin, Ronald M. 1995. Direct final rulemaking, George Washington Law Review 64: 1, 1–34.Google Scholar
  41. Lundstrom, Mark. 2003. Moore’s Law forever? Science 299: 210, 210–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lyman, Peter, and Hal R. Varian. 2003. How much information. available at on 2 Nov. 2005.
  43. Maryland Business and Technology Court Task Force, Final Report. 2000. available at
  44. Mashaw, Jerry L., and David L. Harfst. 1991. The struggle for auto safety. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  45. McGarity, Thomas O. 1992. Some thoughts on deossifying the rulemaking process. Duke Law Journal 41: 1385, 1385–1462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McGarity, Thomas, Rena Steinzor, Sidney Shapiro, and Mathew Shudtz. 2010. Workers at risk: regulatory dysfunction at OSHA, Center for Progressive Reform White Paper #1003.Google Scholar
  47. Merrill, Richard A. 1988. FDA’s implementation of the delaney clause: Repudiation of congressional choice or reasoned adaptation to scientific progress? Yale Journal on Regulation 5: 1, 1–88.Google Scholar
  48. Miller, J. 2003. Beyond biotechnology: FDA regulation of nanomedicine. The Columbia Science and Technology Law Review 4: 1, 1–2.Google Scholar
  49. Mireles, Michael S. 2005. The United States patent reform quagmire: A balanced proposal. Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology 6: 709.Google Scholar
  50. Mooney, Chris 2004. A short history of sunsets. Legal Affairs 67, 67–71. (Jan.–Feb. 2004), available at Scholar
  51. Moore, Gordon E. 1965. Cramming more components onto integrated circuits. Electronics 38 (8): 114–117.Google Scholar
  52. Moses, Lyria Bennett. 2007. Recurring dilemmas: The law’s race to keep up with technological change. University of Illinois Journal of Law, Technology & Policy 2007: 239–285.Google Scholar
  53. Newman, P. 2003. Trilateral seminar on science, society and the internet, opening statement by Judge Pauline Newman. A Dec. 14–16, conference sponsored by, inter alia, the NSF, available at
  54. New York Times. 2010. Dial-Up law in a broadband world (editorial). NY Times, April 9, at A18.Google Scholar
  55. Office of Technology Assessment. 1986. Intellectual property rights in an age of electronics and information. Washington, DC: GPO.Google Scholar
  56. Pedersen, William F. 2001. Contracting with the regulated for better regulations. The Administrative Law Review. 53: 1067, 1067–1138.Google Scholar
  57. Pierce, Richard J. Jr., 1995. Seven ways to deossify agency rulemaking. Administrative Law Review 47: 59, 60.Google Scholar
  58. Ponte, Lucille M. 2002. The Michigan Cyber Court: A bold experiment in the development of the first public virtual courthouse. North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology 4: 51, 51–91 (2002).Google Scholar
  59. Popper, Steven W. 2003. Technological change and the challenges for 21st century governance. In AAAS science and technology policy yearbook 2003, eds. A.H. Teich et al., 83–103. Washington: American Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  60. President’s Council on Bioethics. 2002. Human cloning and human dignity: An ethical inquiry. Washington, DC: GPO.Google Scholar
  61. President’s Council on Bioethics. 2004. Reproduction and responsibility: The regulation of new biotechnologies. Washington, DC: GPO.Google Scholar
  62. de Solla Price, D.J. 1986. Little science, big scienceand beyond. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Rejeski, David. 2004. The next small thing. The environmental forum, March/April 2004, at 45.Google Scholar
  64. Roco, Mihail C., and William Sims Bainbridge. 2003. Converging technologies for improving human performance: Nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science. Dordrecht: Klewer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  65. Roco, Mihail., and Ortwin Renn. 2007. International Risk Governance Council, Policy Brief: Nanotechnology Risk Governance – Recommendations for a Global, Coordinated Approach to the Governance of Potential Risks.Google Scholar
  66. Ruhl, J.B. 1997. Thinking of environmental law as a complex adaptive system: How to clean up the environment by making a mess of environmental law. Houston Law Review 34: 933–1002.Google Scholar
  67. Samuel, Gabrielle N., Michael J. Selgelid, and Ian Kerridge. 2009. Managing the unimaginable. EMBO Reports 10: 7–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Shea, Lonnie D., and Tiffany L. Houchin. 2004. Modular design of non-viral vectors with bioactive components. Trends In Biotechnology 22: 429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Solove, Daniel J. 2004. Reconstructing electronic surveillance law. George Washington Law Review 72: 1264.Google Scholar
  70. Terry, Sharon T. 2001. Prepared testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, 107th Congress, Issues Raised by Human Cloning Research, 28 Mar. 2001.Google Scholar
  71. Thurow, Lester C. 1997. Needed: A new system of intellectual property rights. Harvard Business Review 75 (5): 94–103.Google Scholar
  72. Trajtenberg, Manuel. 1990. Economic analysis of product innovation: the case of CT scanners, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Tuomi, Ilkka. 2003. Kurzweil, Moore, and Accelerating Change, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Working paper 27 (August 2003),
  74. United States v. Microsoft Corp. 2001. 253 F.3d 34. (D.C. Cir.).Google Scholar
  75. Van Alstine, Michael P. 2002. The costs of legal change. UCLA Law Review. 49: 789–870.Google Scholar
  76. Waldmeir, Patti. 2001. Lawmakers Struggle to Keep Up, Financial Times, 2 Oct. 2001 at 13.Google Scholar
  77. Warner, Gerald. 2008. If You’re Reading This, Perhaps All is Well. Daily Telegraph (Sept. 10) at 21.Google Scholar
  78. World Health Organization (WHO). 2008. Quality & Safety in Genetic Testing: An Emerging Concern. available at:
  79. WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). 2007. Patent Report: Statistics on Worldwide Patent Activity (2007 Edition).

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations