“Permissionless innovation”—the general freedom to experiment with new technologies and business models—has been the secret sauce that fueled the success of the Internet and the digital economy, and it is set to power the next great industrial revolution—if we let it.
What policy vision will govern the future of technological innovation? Will innovators be forced to constantly seek the blessing of public officials before they develop and deploy new devices and services, or will they be generally left free to experiment with new technologies and business models?
In Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom, Adam Thierer argues that if the former disposition (“the precautionary principle”) trumps the latter (“permissionless innovation”), the result will be fewer services, lower quality goods, higher prices, diminished economic growth, and a decline in the overall standard of living.
When public policy is shaped by “precautionary principle” reasoning, it poses a serious threat to technological progress, economic entrepreneurialism, and long-run prosperity. By contrast, “permissionless innovation” has been the secret sauce that fueled the success of the Internet and much of the modern tech economy in recent years, and it is set to power the next great industrial revolution—if we let it.
Adam Thierer is a senior research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Forbes, and he contributes to The Technology Liberation Front, a leading tech policy blog.