Policy Roundtable on Emerging Technologies

28 May 2019


Reported by Bekki Parrish NERC-funded Policy Intern (May - July 2019)

A policy roundtable was convened by CSaP, bringing together members of the Cabinet Office with academics from a range of disciplines to discuss the policy challenges and opportunities of emerging technologies.

Chaired by CSaP Director Rob Doubleday, and attended by members of the Cabinet Office and a range of academics, the roundtable provided a forum for open discussion, identifying themes of interest for the upcoming G7 and G20 summits, and to explore the ever growing presence of emerging technologies on the global agenda.

Discussions explored policy challenges and opportunities relating to the diffuse topics of digital and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and emerging biological technologies. Making policy in these areas presents a range of challenges, not least because of the complex and fast-paced nature of such technologies, that may render traditional regulatory structures ineffective. As a global leader in digital technologies, the Cabinet Office were keen to understand the UK's "crown jewels" of the industry and how policy could be used to support and capitalise upon such technologies, whilst simultaneously protecting privacy and security of citizens both nationally and internationally.

The discussions were highly fruitful, with many topics covered including: personal data collection and usage; the fundamental nature of technologies as neither good nor bad and their potential for both positive and toxic applications; online harm; digital infrastructure; data flows and the interconnectivity of digital networks; technological vs socio-technological systems; public trust and engagement; the role of private sector; the use of digital technologies within regulation; access to technology (particularly for non-G20 nations); issues around convergence of technologies (such as biology and AI) and the need for smart legislation to address current and future convergences; big data; agenda bias in emerging technologies and the impact of emerging technologies on job markets.

Outputs from the session were in the form of improved understanding, and new ideas for policy makers to explore and carry forward in future dialogues. Considering political action and next steps, themes around the role of international collective action, and the need for national leadership were discussed, as was the need to appreciate differences in attitudes and approaches to governance of such technologies within the global fauna. Some potential practical policy solutions were also brainstormed for future consideration.

The roundtable demonstrated the power of open conversations between representatives from government and academia, to explore and reflect upon complex and dynamic topics and emanate new understanding and policy opportunities.

Photo by Jenn Calder 2005