Temporal Perspectives of the Nanotechnological Challenge to Regulation: How Human Rights Can Contribute to the Present and Future of Nanotechnologies

NanoEthics 7 (3):201-215 (2013)
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Expectations play a central role in understanding scientific and technological changes. Future-oriented representations are also central with regard to nanotechnologies as they can guide policy activities, provide structures and legitimation, attract different interests, focus policy-makers’ attention and foster investments for research. However, the emphasis on future scenarios tends to underrate the complexity of the challenges of the present market of nanotechnologies by flattening them under the needs and promises of scientific research. This is particularly apparent if we consider the viewpoint of the regulator who faces two different ranges of problems with regard to the market and research and is expected, simultaneously, to manage two different types of regulatory instruments, pursuing at the same time the same goals. Instead, by favoring only the future scenarios, the regulator runs the risk of abruptly shifting from more flexible and elastic tools to forms of hard legislation, wasting, thus, the resources of the soft-regulation, in particular those of self-regulation. By referring primarily to the European context, human rights, also thanks to their normative structure of principles, can help in strengthening both the legislation needed for regulating the present market and the soft instruments needed for steering research and for fostering the stakeholders’ participation without sacrificing the coherence of the regulatory response



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