Prospecting C-PET

The Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies (C-PET – say it see-pet, and think C-SPAN) has been a work in progress for two years, during which time we have built up an increasingly respected presence on the technology policy arena. We have many people involved – some “big names” and some behind-the-scenes volunteers; we have held key events and are creating an ever-growing development plan to ensure the organisation grows to meet its potential. We are well on the way to achieving our goal of becoming Washington’s authoritative think tank on US and global emerging technology policy.

And then the real work will start.

A well-funded, authoritative and widely supported non-governmental body that speaks with authority on emerging technologies is badly needed. Some might say that the start of the deepest recession that any of us has experienced is no time to be looking for funding to start another talking shop. But that is not the way to think.

When C-PET is fully operational and fully funded it will be good news for us all. Good news for potential tech investors who have concerns about the impact of tech projects and public reception of them. Good news for risk managers and reinsurers too. Good news for technophiles who don’t want their apple carts upset. Good news for techno-critics who want to make sure the talking is done before the doing. Good news for policymakers, who always tend to ignore long-term impacts in favour of quick wins. In short, good news for society. And at a time when there is acute pressure on funding – in both the public and private sectors – there is an event greater need to invest today in robust long-term thinking – to prevent us from making decisions and indecision that cannot easily be undone tomorrow.

To this end, C-PET must encourage much more widespread discussion and debate on technology issues; start such discussions earlier; engage all of the relevant players including those with strong opinions. In short we must provide the forum in which informed, wise policy decision-making is supported.

C-PET is needed both in the US and worldwide. The previous lack of such a body – especially in Washington where none of the other major think tanks has a major interest (or generally any interest) in the emerging technologies that are the drivers of the innovation economy and future security – defies belief. The US dominates around 75% of these technologies, all the way from the ubiquitous but ever-shifting internet to artificial intelligence to the more distant prospects of synthetic biology.

Details of what we are doing can be found on our pro tem. website at c-pet.org. The purpose of this blog as we move ahead is for me to report on the process (not least of securing major funding for an innovative project in the current financial context) and to comment on some of the many reasons why we believe C-PET matters so much.

Your responses will be welcome!

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