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Durham University

Durham Law School

Staff profile

Publication details for Professor Deryck Beyleveld

Beyleveld, Deryck. & Brownsword, Roger. (2012). Emerging Technologies, Extreme Uncertainty, and the Principle of Rational Precautionary Reasoning. Law, Innovation and Technology 4(1): 35-65.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper argues that, in a context of 'extreme uncertainty' (where it is believed that it is possible that an emerging technology might cause harm to humans, damage to the environment, or some form of moral violation; but where the likelihood of such harm can be expressed only as lying in the range >0<1), regulators should be guided by a 'Principle of Rational Precautionary Reason' (the PRPR). The PRPR, which is to be distinguished from the precautionary principle, is presented as a rational response to cases of extreme uncertainty that regulators might encounter in both their prudential and moral calculations. For illustrative purposes, the application of the PRPR is tested in relation to the Large Hadron Collider, nanotechnologies and food, and the application of neuroscience and neurotechnologies in the criminal justice system.