Genetically Modified Organisms: A Precautionary Tale for AI Governance

The fruits of a long anticipated technology finally hit the market, with promise to extend human life, revolutionize production, improve consumer welfare, reduce poverty, and inspire countless yet-imagined innovations. A marvel of science and engineering, it reflects the cumulative efforts of a generation of researchers backed by research funding from the U.S. government and private sector investments in (predominantly American) technology companies. Though most scientists and policy elites consider the fruits of this technology to be safe, and the technology itself as a game-changer, there is still widespread acknowledgment that certain applications raise deeply challenging ethical issues, with some commentators even warning that careless or malicious applications could cause planet-wide catastrophes. Indeed, the technology has long been a fixture of science fiction, as an antagonist in allegories about hubris and science run amok—a narrative not lost on policy makers in the United States, Europe and elsewhere as they navigate the challenges and opportunities of this potentially world-changing new technology.