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SSS44210.1177/0306312713508669Social Studies of ScienceGuston

Article

Understanding ‘anticipatory governance’

Social Studies of Science 2014, Vol. 44(2) 218­–242 © The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0306312713508669 sss.sagepub.com

David H Guston

School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA; Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA; Center for Nanotechnology in Society, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

Abstract Anticipatory governance is ‘a broad-based capacity extended through society that can act on a variety of inputs to manage emerging knowledge-based technologies while such management is still possible’. It motivates activities designed to build capacities in foresight, engagement, and integration – as well as through their production ensemble. These capacities encourage and support the reflection of scientists, engineers, policy makers, and other publics on their roles in new technologies. This article reviews the early history of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the United States, and it further explicates anticipatory governance through exploring the genealogy of the term and addressing a set of critiques found in the literature. These critiques involve skepticism of three proximities of anticipatory governance: to its object, nanotechnology, which is a relatively indistinct one; to the public, which remains almost utterly naïve toward nanotechnology; and to technoscience itself, which allegedly renders anticipatory governance complicit in its hubris. The article concludes that the changing venues and the amplification within them of the still, small voices of folks previously excluded from offering constructive visions of futures afforded by anticipatory governance may not be complete solutions to our woes in governing technology, but they certainly can contribute to bending the long arc of technoscience more toward humane ends.

Keywords anticipatory governance, emerging technologies, foresight, nanotechnology, public engagement, responsible innovation

I entered the taxi, anxious about the trip to the airport – how bad would traffic be? – the meeting in Washington, DC – how well would the presentation go? – and the months-long Corresponding author: David H Guston, Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Arizona State University, Interdisciplinary B 366, 1120 S. Cady Mall, PO Box 875603, Tempe, AZ 85287-5603, USA. Email: [email protected]

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wait for the committee’s decision – would we win? After the obligatory exchange of airline terminal information, the cabbie asked, ‘Where ya headed?’ ‘DC’. Anxiety elided my reply. ‘Business or pleasure?’ ‘Business’. Will this inquisition never end? ‘Oh, whaddaya do?’ ‘Teach at the university’. No, it will not end. ‘Whaddaya teach?’ ‘Political science’. Never end. ‘Really! What in particular?’ Never, ever, end. I tried the conversation stopper: ‘I study the politics of science and technology’. Ha! ‘Cool. So what’s in DC?’ You’ve got to be kidding. Here comes the big gun. ‘I’m trying to get a grant from the government to study the social, ethical, and political aspects of nanotechnology’. Ha, ha! ‘So, like, whaddaya think of the situation with quantum computing and security?’1

Introduction The epigraph represents the actual cab ride I took from my home in Phoenix, Arizona, to SkyHarbor Airport and then to Washington, DC, where I led the reverse site visit portion of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) competition for the Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS). As the conversation continued, I learned more about quantum computing, and about how my interlocutor came to know about it (he was not the proverbial, unemployed aerospace engineer; he had a girlfriend who had an ex-boyfriend who …). Far from being a distracting irritation, the conversation ended up providing a powerful illustration of an untutored citizen who wanted to talk about the ramifications of an emerging technology. The anecdote resonated well in my presentation to the NSF about my research center’s vision for ‘anticipatory governance’. Anticipatory governance is defined as ‘a broad-based capacity extended through society that can act on a variety of inputs to manage emerging knowledge-based technologies while such management is still possible’ (Guston, 2008: vi). As pursued by the CNS at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU), which I direct, anticipatory governance motivates activities designed to build subsidiary capacities in foresight, engagement, and integration, as well as through their production ensemble (Barben et al., 2008). These capacities encourage and support scientists, engineers, policy makers, and other publics to reflect on their roles in nanotechnology. Reflection here quite simply means awareness of one’s own position as participant, with a specific set of roles and responsibilities, in a field of other actors. In a review of the Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (Hackett et al., 2008), Fuller (2009)