Technology evolves so quickly that government regulations are outdated from the day they are written. Policymakers should consider the thirty-year-old insights of an obscure British economist for a map to the new approach we need to regulating technologies. 

We are moving rapidly into the age of the “Internet of Everything” (IoE), in which tens of billions of smart, interconnected devices – from environmental sensors to bathroom scales – will interoperate without human involvement, and in ways that likely will be unknowable.  If governments default to their tradition of writing regulations for specific technologies as they are currently known, they will risk stifling some of the innovation that will change those technologies tomorrow. Instead, regulators should read the writings of economist George Shackle, who described the state of technological “unknowledge” back around 1980. Shackle would have policymakers combine their current knowledge with imagination to create a “thought map” that envisions all probable and possible future scenarios. They should then make policy decisions that are sufficiently flexible and dynamic to encompass a wide range of such scenarios. 

Read Haynes’ full article on our FutureSource blog.

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