What policy vision will govern the future of technological innovation?
Will innovators be forced to 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 this book, 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 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.
Praise for the First Edition
“What has made the Internet revolutionary is that it’s permissionless. No one had to get approval from Washington or city hall to offer Google searches, Facebook profiles, or Apple apps, as Adam Thierer of George Mason University notes in his new book, Permissionless Innovation. A bipartisan consensus in the 1990s led Washington to allow commercial development of the Internet without onerous regulations. Unlike the earlier telecommunications and broadcasting industries, Internet entrepreneurs didn’t need licenses to proceed, just good ideas.”
—L. Gordon Crovitz, Wall Street Journal
“In its brevity, Permissionless Innovation is one of the better introductions written to cyberlibertarian thought on innovation. . . . Law has to arise from decentralized and dynamic processes like customs, contracts, and agreements.”
—Waldemar Ingdahl, CEO, Eudoxa
“Sometimes it seems like the only thing that matches the relentless pace of innovation in the technology sector is the relentless change in the language used to describe this innovation. While some of the new words that appear . . . are clearly either marketing lingo or just plain attempts to troll the Internet, there are other buzzwords that hint at deeper changes taking place within the cultural zeitgeist.”
—Dominic Basalt, Washington Post, citing “permissionless innovation” as one of “four recent buzzwords that are changing the way we think about innovation”
About the Author
Adam Thierer is a senior research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He specializes in technology, media, Internet, and free-speech policies, with a particular focus on online safety and digital privacy. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and Forbes, and he has appeared on national television and radio. He also contributes to the Technology Liberation Front, a leading tech policy blog.
Thierer has authored or edited eight books on topics ranging from media regulation and child safety issues to the role of federalism in high-technology markets. He has served on several distinguished online safety task forces, including Harvard University’s Internet Safety Technical Task Force and the federal government’s Online Safety Technology Working Group, and he has testified numerous times on Capitol Hill.
Previously, Thierer was president of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, director of telecommunications studies at the Cato Institute, and a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received his MA in international business management and trade theory from the University of Maryland and his BA in journalism and political philosophy from Indiana University.