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by Paul Syers

Not every new technology requires new regulations to govern its use. When examining problems created by innovation, we should look to the jurisdiction and applicability of existing laws before trying to write new ones that will further complicate the whole system. Writing knee jerk laws to regulate the size of airline seats, for example, is not good practice. It only gunks up the works and slows both functioning of the government and the pace of innovation down.

I’m not saying that all regulation is bad. We are all demonstrably safer because of the seatbelt regulations for cars enacted in 1967. I don’t want to return to the world of Upton Sinclair’s the Jungle.

New innovations will always bring about new situations that raise questions about liability and personal freedoms. But rarely do these new situations differ so much that new wholly new legislation is required. The coming time of autonomous vehicles means that eventually someone will get into a wreck with one. Last I checked, however, the AV program is not a sentient being, and therefore it has both a maker and owner, and there is more than enough software liability precedent to cover things. In the fight between the FBI and Apple, some have suggested that the All Writs Act is antiquated, because it was created in 1789, yet no one questions any part of the Bill of Rights, which was enacted the same year. The Director of the FBI stated in front of Congress that he is confident the courts can make a ruling in this particular case.

So let’s stop itching to write new laws and spend more time understanding and adapting the laws we do have to work better.