The Collingridge Dilemma and the Proactive Governance of Emerging Technologies - May 2015

Saner, Marc

Presentation Abstract

Advocates of emerging technologies (such as nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, information technologies, and robotics) promise tremendous potential for change.  The development of these technologies is justified by their potential to lessen most of our key problems including, energy security, food security, climate change, global health, extreme poverty, and so forth.  This promise of rapid global change, however, also leads to skepticism regarding the direction of change: who will be the beneficiaries and who will bear the potential downsides?

In the context of the governance of emerging technologies, the "Collingridge Dilemma" expresses the relevant problem particularly clearly.  On the outset, we are facing an information deficit -- we simply do not know if the technology is going to be "good or whack" (to quote comedian Ali G.).  Later on, as we start to understand the impacts, we often face a power deficit -- it is often too late to effectively control the diffusion and consequences of the technology. 

Despite this difficult dilemma, many practical management and governance practices exist.  ISSP Director Marc Saner will illustrate the current issues and discuss ideas for the proactive governance of emerging technologies.


Saner M. (2015).  The Trouble with Emerging Technologies. (PDF file)

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