Regulation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

by ukcivilservant

The Business Department today published an interesting White Paper with the above title.

The background is that we seem to be undergoing a further Industrial Revolution in which the physical, biological and digital worlds are coming together in the form of new technologies such as machine learning, big data, robotics and gene editing.

Regulators have for some time noted the disappearance of boundaries between the various forms of communication:- “It’s all now bits and bytes”. Road vehicles and aircraft are nowadays little more than complex IT systems in aluminium shells. And biologists appreciate that the genetic code in DNA uses only four chemical bases (A, C, G & T) whose sequence needs to be read, decoded, and translated into the more complex amino acid alphabet used to form proteins. So they now use the same language as software engineers, using concepts such as coded instructions, signalling and control.

The White Paper recognises this convergence and proposes no less than 28 measures to be taken by government and regulators to address these six challenges:

  • We (the UK) need to be on the front foot in reforming regulation in response to technological innovation
  • We need to ensure that our regulatory system is sufficiently flexible and outcomes focused to enable innovation to thrive
  • We need to enable greater experimentation, testing and trialling of innovations under regulatory supervision
  • We need to support innovators to navigate the regulatory landscape and comply with regulation
  • We need to build dialogue with society and industry on how technological innovation should be regulated
  • We need to work with partners across the globe to reduce regulatory barriers to trade in innovative products and services

Comment:  We await the reactions of innovators and industry, but this document – at first sight – looks both sensible and worthwhile.  Its detail clearly needs to be read by all those interested in this important area.

Non-experts wanting easily accessible information about the regulation of communications, the internet, AI and other emerging technologies might like to browse the Understanding Regulation website.


Martin Stanley

Editor  –  Understanding Government websites