“Permissionless Innovation” vs. the
“Precautionary Principle”
Jerry Brito, Eli Dourado & Adam Thierer
Senior Research Fell...
Outline of discussion
1. What is “permissionless innovation”?
– Why is it important?
2. What is the “precautionary princip...
“Permissionless Innovation”
the general freedom
to experiment & learn
through trial-and-error
experimentation
3
When the Internet was
“permissioned” (pre-1990s)
a warning to students from a 1982 MIT handbook for
the use of ARPAnet, th...
Permissionless innovation gave us
today’s Net & digital revolution
• It has driven the explosion of Internet
entreprenueri...
“Precautionary Principle”
= Crafting public policies to control or limit new
innovations until their creators can prove th...
The Precautionary Principle vs. Permissionless Innovation
A Range of Responses to Technological Risk
Prohibition
Censorshi...
Better way to respond to risk?
Bottom-up approaches to new tech risks:
• Education
• Empowerment
• New norms
• Ongoing exp...
The problem with
“permissioning” innovation
• lost entreprenurialism / less innovation
• diminished marketplace entry / ri...
Bottom Line: What’s good for the Net
is good for everything else!
• Net freedom advocates are right to extol the
permissio...
Case Study #1:
Commercial Drones
11
Commercial Drones
• Currently illegal to operate a drone for profit
• FAA must integrate commercial drones in US
airspace ...
Private Uses of Drones
• Tacocopter
• Agriculture
• Freight
• Google Loon
• We don’t know what else yet
13
What about safety?
• Go to court
• Could quickly become safer than cars
– Compare risk of pizza delivery by auto vs. by
qu...
What about privacy?
• Go to court
• There are already federal, state, and local laws
that protect privacy
• Proposed rules...
Give adaptation a chance
“Instantaneous photographs and newspaper
enterprise have invaded the sacred precincts of
private ...
Case Study #2:
Bitcoin
17
Bitcoin
• World’s first completely decentralized digital
currency
– Solves the ‘double spending problem’
– Pseudonymity
18
Benefits
• Cheaper and quicker than traditional networks
– Small business alternative to payment networks
– Micropayments
...
Challenges
• Pseudonymity
– Illicit drugs (Silk Road)
– Child exploitation
– Money laundering
• Consumer Protection
20
Bitcoin’s Future
• Silicon Valley VCs are investing millions
• Could disrupt the payments industry
• Biggest threat to thi...
Case Study #3:
3D Printing
22
3D Printing
• Benefits
• Challenges
– Guns
– Piracy
23
Permissionless innovation & the future
tech economy…
• Driverless cars & “smart transportation”
• Wearable computing / Goo...
25
The opportunities before us…
related Mercatus Center research:
Papers & Filings
• Mercatus filing to FAA on Unmanned Aircraft System Test Site Program
...
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Capitol Hill Campus: Drones, Bitcoin, and 3-D Printing: Regulating Emerging Technologies

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Capitol Hill Campus: Drones, Bitcoin, and 3-D Printing: Regulating Emerging Technologies

  1. 1. “Permissionless Innovation” vs. the “Precautionary Principle” Jerry Brito, Eli Dourado & Adam Thierer Senior Research Fellows Mercatus Center at George Mason University July 2013
  2. 2. Outline of discussion 1. What is “permissionless innovation”? – Why is it important? 2. What is the “precautionary principle”? – What are its costs? 3. Case studies: Why permissionless innovation is worth preserving – Commercial drones – Bitcoin – 3D printing – Other emerging technologies 2
  3. 3. “Permissionless Innovation” the general freedom to experiment & learn through trial-and-error experimentation 3
  4. 4. When the Internet was “permissioned” (pre-1990s) a warning to students from a 1982 MIT handbook for the use of ARPAnet, the progenitor of what would become the Internet: “It is considered illegal to use the ARPAnet for anything which is not in direct support of government business... Sending electronic mail over the ARPAnet for commercial profit or political purposes is both anti-social and illegal. By sending such messages, you can offend many people, and it is possible to get MIT in serious trouble with the government agencies which manage the ARPAnet.” 4
  5. 5. Permissionless innovation gave us today’s Net & digital revolution • It has driven the explosion of Internet entreprenuerialism over past 2 decades. • Again, before early 1990s, online innovation & commercial activity wasn’t even allowed. • But the commercial opening of the Net changed all that. The rest is history. • We need same revolutionary approach to new technology, whether based on bits (digital economy) or atoms (industrial economy). 5
  6. 6. “Precautionary Principle” = Crafting public policies to control or limit new innovations until their creators can prove that they won’t cause any harms. – this “better to be safe than sorry” mentality leads to “Mother, May I” (“permissioned”) policy prescriptions & preemptive regulation by bureaucracies – It is the opposite of permissionless innovation • Rationales for “precautionary” regulation: – safety & security – public morals – privacy 6
  7. 7. The Precautionary Principle vs. Permissionless Innovation A Range of Responses to Technological Risk Prohibition Censorship Info suppression Product bans Anticipatory Regulation Administrative mandates Restrictive defaults Licensing & permits Industry guidance Resiliency Education & Media Literacy Labeling / Transparency User empowerment Self-regulation Adaptation Experience / Experiments Learning / Coping Social norms & pressure Top-down Solutions Bottom-up Solutions Precautionary Principle Permissionless Innovation Permissioned Innovation 7
  8. 8. Better way to respond to risk? Bottom-up approaches to new tech risks: • Education • Empowerment • New norms • Ongoing experimentation • Adaptation • Self-regulation • Torts, property rights, contracts & other existing legal standards 8
  9. 9. The problem with “permissioning” innovation • lost entreprenurialism / less innovation • diminished marketplace entry / rivalry • stagnant markets • protectionism / cronyism • loss of int’l competitive advantage • higher prices & fewer services / choices for consumers 9
  10. 10. Bottom Line: What’s good for the Net is good for everything else! • Net freedom advocates are right to extol the permissionless innovation model—but they are wrong to believe that it need be unique to the Internet. • We can legalize innovation in the physical world, too. • All it takes is a recognition that real-world innovators should not have to ask permission either. 10
  11. 11. Case Study #1: Commercial Drones 11
  12. 12. Commercial Drones • Currently illegal to operate a drone for profit • FAA must integrate commercial drones in US airspace by 2015 – Regulations are under consideration now 12
  13. 13. Private Uses of Drones • Tacocopter • Agriculture • Freight • Google Loon • We don’t know what else yet 13
  14. 14. What about safety? • Go to court • Could quickly become safer than cars – Compare risk of pizza delivery by auto vs. by quadrocopter 14
  15. 15. What about privacy? • Go to court • There are already federal, state, and local laws that protect privacy • Proposed rules are absurd • Social adaptation 15
  16. 16. Give adaptation a chance “Instantaneous photographs and newspaper enterprise have invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life; and numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that ‘what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.’” — Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis, 1890 16
  17. 17. Case Study #2: Bitcoin 17
  18. 18. Bitcoin • World’s first completely decentralized digital currency – Solves the ‘double spending problem’ – Pseudonymity 18
  19. 19. Benefits • Cheaper and quicker than traditional networks – Small business alternative to payment networks – Micropayments – Remittances • Privacy • Access to capital • Inflation resistant • Bitcoin as a platform (permissionless) 19
  20. 20. Challenges • Pseudonymity – Illicit drugs (Silk Road) – Child exploitation – Money laundering • Consumer Protection 20
  21. 21. Bitcoin’s Future • Silicon Valley VCs are investing millions • Could disrupt the payments industry • Biggest threat to this potential revolution – Overbroad money laundering regulations – State money service business licensing 21
  22. 22. Case Study #3: 3D Printing 22
  23. 23. 3D Printing • Benefits • Challenges – Guns – Piracy 23
  24. 24. Permissionless innovation & the future tech economy… • Driverless cars & “smart transportation” • Wearable computing / Google Glass • “Smart energy” & “smart grids” • Geolocation / Geotagging / RFID • Facial recognition & biometrics • Robotics & nanotechnology • “Internet of Things” 24
  25. 25. 25 The opportunities before us…
  26. 26. related Mercatus Center research: Papers & Filings • Mercatus filing to FAA on Unmanned Aircraft System Test Site Program • Mercatus filing to FTC on Privacy and Security Implications of the Internet of Things • Technopanics, Threat Inflation, and the Danger of an Information Technology Precautionary Principle (Thierer) • Bitcoin: A Primer for Policymakers (Brito) Articles & Blog Posts • Who Really Believes in “Permissionless Innovation”? (Thierer) • “Permissionless Innovation” Offline as Well as On (Thierer) • The Third Industrial Revolution Has Only Just Begun (Dourado) • Mr. Bitcoin Goes to Washington (Brito) • The Next Internet-Like Platform for Innovation? Airspace (Think Drones) (Dourado) • Domestic Drones Are Coming Your Way (Brito) • When It Comes to Information Control, Everybody Has a Pet Issue & Everyone Will Be Disappointed (Thierer) 26
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