Colloquium: Emerging Technologies: Five Challenges for Regulators

It is generally agreed that it is important to create the right kind of regulatory environment for emerging technologies. However, what does this mean? What is it that makes a regulatory nvironment “right”? Is it a question of quantity, that we need more, or perhaps less, regulation? Or, is it a question of quality and direction? Or, is it perhaps unhelpful to put the question in these terms?
In this paper, I will suggest that the adequacy of the regulatory environment should be assessed relative to five criteria, each of which can be expressed as a particular kind of regulatory challenge. First, there is the prudential challenge: where emerging technologies might present risks, regulators need to take steps to ensure and manage those risks; risks should be acceptable. Secondly, there is the challenge of legitimacy; regulatory positions and regulatory strategies need to be compatible with governing values¾regulators should be trying to do the right thing and setting about doing it in the right kind of way. Thirdly, regulatory interventions should be fit for purpose; they should work; they should be effective. Fourthly, regulation needs to engage appropriately with emerging technologies and to
stay connected; the regulatory environment needs to be sustainable. Finally, cosmopolitans will demand that regulators should respect fundamental values as well as tolerate legitimate local difference.

Is there a thread that runs through this? Possibly it is that regulators have to find ways of handling various kinds of pluralism (prudential and moral) in a context of uncertainty, rapid change, and significant
inter-connectedness.