Complexity and Anticipatory Socio-Behavioral Assessment of Government Attempts to Induce Clean Technologies


Governments are increasingly resorting to technology mandates to force development and commercialization of socially-desirable technologies that the market, for various reasons, seems unable or unwilling to provide in a timely manner. This Article analyzes three recent examples of government-imposed technology mandates, including explicit or de facto government requirements for electric vehicles, digital TV, and non-incandescent light bulbs. The analysis demonstrates that while all three mandates were motivated by legitimate and worthy goals, all three mandates encountered controversy, delays, confusion, and at best partial success. Three major conclusions can be drawn from these three cases studies: (1) Technology mandates should be a last resort for government to induce beneficial technologies; (2) When government resorts to technology mandates it should do a better job of trying to anticipate the social, economic, and technological implications of the intended technology change; and (3) When government resorts to technology mandates it should put into place mechanisms for ongoing review and adjustment of technology mandates.

About the Author

Gary E. Marchant is the Regents’ Professor and Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law & Ethics, and Faculty Director of the Center for Law, Science & Innovation, at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University.

By uclalaw