Peter French, Director of the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics and the Lincoln Chair in Ethics, said the federal grant will carry on the multi-year project the Center funded to produce innovative solutions for bringing law and ethics into pace with the issues being raised by the emerging technologies.
"The 'Pacing Project' that we funded as a launching pad for the current study focused on the inability of existing public policy and ethical and legal tools to keep pace with developments in areas such as genetics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, cognitive sciences and enhancement technology," French said. "Brad, Joe, and Gary have taken the lead internationally in trying to develop systematic approaches to what clearly are and will continue to be among the most important issues confronting the global society."
Many examples exist of the law not keeping pace with technology, Marchant said, such as genetic testing that is rapidly being deployed in many medical applications, but there is little, if any, regulatory approval or oversight of these tests.
"Another is nanotechnology," he said. "We have this technology going forward in enormously unprecedented ways, and the regulatory systems have not been able to keep up."
This is both dangerous for public health and safety, and is a roadblock to investors in the technology community.
"The accelerating rate of technological evolution in areas such as robotics, biotechnology, and neurotechnology has created a serious need to better understand how global technology systems of unprecedented complexity and power can be better regulated," Allenby said.
"But we have a lot of work to do, and with this funding from the NSF, we will be able to tackle the problem head on and develop models that may enable policymakers, courts and regulators to respond more quickly," he said.
The project will involve several case studies, workshops and one or more books during the three-year term of the grant, Marchant said.