Some new technologies are frightening from the start, and the need to establish political controls over their development and use is obvious to all.
When the first atomic bomb was detonated at Alamogordo, New Mexico, in the summer of 1945, not one of the witnesses to this event failed to understand that a terrible new potential for destruction had been created.
Nuclear weapons were thus from the very beginning ringed with political controls: Individuals could not freely develop nuclear technology on their own or traffic in the parts necessary to create atomic bombs, and in time, nations that became signatories to the 1968 nonproliferation treaty agreed to control international trade in nuclear technology.
Other new technologies appear to be much more benign, and are consequently subject to little or no regulation.
Personal computers and the Internet, for example, promised to create wealth, increase access to information, and foster community among their users.
People have had to look hard for downsides to the information revolution.
What they have found to date are issues like the so-called “digital divide” (i.e., inequality of access to information technology) and threats to privacy, neither of which qualify as earth-shaking matters of justice or morality.
Despite occasional efforts on the part of the world’s more statist societies to try to control the use of information technology, it has blossomed in recent years.