The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has just published a new report I’ve written on Governing Emerging Technology in an Age of Policy Fragmentation and Disequilibrium. It’s a 19-page essay that outlines some of the new governance approaches that are developing in a variety of high-tech sectors. I thought it might be of some interest for those in the progress studies community who are focused on the policy issues surrounding innovation and high-tech. The 4 key takeaways of my study are:

  • Traditional governance mechanisms are being strained by modern technological and political realities. Newer technologies, especially digital ones, are developing at an ever-faster rate and building on top of each other, blurring lines between sectors.
  • Congress has failed to keep up with the quickening pace of technological change. It also continues to delegate most of its constitutional authority to agencies to deal with most policy concerns. But agencies are overwhelmed too. This situation is unlikely to change, creating a governance gap.
  • Decentralized governance techniques are filling the gap. Soft law—informal, iterative, experimental, and collaborative solutions—represents the new normal for technological governance. This is particularly true for information sectors, including social media platforms, for which the First Amendment acts as a major constraint on formal regulation anyway.
  • No one-size-fits-all tool can address the many governance issues related to fast-paced science and technology developments; therefore, decentralized governance mechanisms may be better suited to address newer policy concerns.

I’d welcome thoughts on the conclusions of the paper, which also includes a discussion of how similar trends are unfolding across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom. Also, AEI will be rolling out several additional essays on this topic from other scholars as part of this series on “Digital Platforms and American Life.” 

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