New technologies can bring tremendous benefits. But they also have costs, or risks, some known, some unknown. How should authorities regulate new technologies in the light of the possible costs and benefits? A standard approach to decision making under risk is to use formal risk cost-benefit analysis. Yet there are clear limits to this approach where risks and probabilities are unknown. Furthermore, simple cost-benefit analysis ignores questions of moral hazard – where benefits and costs fall – and the political dimensions of the introduction of new technologies. In this paper, I discuss how to frame a reasonable precautionary attitude to the risks of new technology, setting out a series of questions that need to be taken into account before a technology should be approved.
Global Priorities Seminar Convenors: Prof Hilary Greaves and Dr Michelle Hutchinson