The precautionary principle

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 12, 2002

Precautionary Principle: "It doesn't sound like a revolutionary idea. Indeed, it sounds like common sense: better safe than sorry; look before you leap. But, in fact, the precautionary principle poses a radical challenge to business as usual in a modern, capitalist, technological civilization."

I'm all for analyzing risk and then plunging forward, but I hope the precautionary principle catches on more here in America, especially when dealing with important irreversible (or nearly irreversible) processes like growing of genetically engineered foods in the wild and constructing black holes in laboratories. The level of technology available to humans has always been ahead of our understanding of it, but with the tools of modern physics, quantum mechanics, and biotechnology available to us, the level of possible danger** is rising more quickly than even the technology.

** It's easy to be all doomy and gloomy about this, but the level of possible goodness arising from our increasingly powerful technology is rising quickly as well...so all hope is not lost yet, I guess.