Panic Attack: The New Precautionary Culture, the Politics of Fear, and the Risks to Innovation
Tuesday, February 14, 2006, 9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
Please register for this event online at www.aei.org/event1246.
Our culture is in the grip of the "precautionary principle." From agricultural biotechnology and biomedicine to geopolitics, international business, education, and our most intimate relationships, risk aversion has become a defining and paralyzing ethic of our time. The notion that we should forsake the products and benefits of new technologies until it is proven that no adverse effects could result reflects an obsessive fear of the unknown.
Commentators have identified the stultifying impact of the precautionary principle on technological innovation and the arbitrary character of regulation inspired by the maxim "better safe than sorry." The broader and more deep-rooted implications of our new precautionary culture have been left unaddressed. This conference, organized in cooperation with the UK Institute of Ideas, will promote wider discussion of why so many aspects of contemporary life have been affected by our aversion to risk. We are witnessing a reevaluation of human activity that concentrates on worst-case scenarios to suggest that active human intervention usually makes things worse and that excessive caution is the only option. This symposium suggests that only by challenging the wider risk-averse culture that permeates contemporary society can we hope to rediscover a sense of purpose about progress and a desire to experiment with new ways of doing things.
Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey and Contributing Editor Charles Paul Freund are on the program, along with a crew of other luminaries. More details here.