We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Public regulation is static by principle. According to his knowledge of the past, a regulator will define conditions for the presence. However, she cannot know what will come in the future. By definition, innovation represents the direct opposite. Innovator cares not about what people did in the past or what the current situation is. Innovation is a projection of the future. The issue arises when these two concepts collide in a concrete case. The regulators then judge the innovation on the basis of the old standards and the innovators judge the regulation based on their own vision of the future.

Today the static barriers of government regulations are exceeded by new technological innovations and new entrepreneurs. Therefore, it is necessary to take a step back and look at these issues from a broader perspective. We can also look at this problematics simplistically and see if the new technology fits into the official regulatory box, or not. And if it, by chance, doesn’t fit, we ban it automatically.

Robert Chovanculiak

9 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Is the hovercraft a boat or a car? If you can’t tell me, let’s ban it until it’s been studied for years. Don’t want any unforeseen accidents, do we?
    I understand the hovercraft had some such trouble when it was first invented.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    I came up with what could be a great idea- 24 hour stickers! You would put this sticker on your body, in place of a permanent tattoo, and it would come off after one day, or would come off in water. Does anyone know if there are such weak glues around? I can’t wait to put a ‘This site vacant’ sticker on my forehead!
    But the regulators might stomp on it with both feet! The effect on the environment is unknown, and people night buy it to sniff the glue! Let’s just ban it and forget about it!

  • James Hargrave

    Nicholas Gray – you have a great future in the Australian public service, I fear. Such attitudes seem to abound there.

  • rxc

    I actually used to be a government regulator. I worked for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and evaluated new nuclear reactor designs, and modifications to existing nuclear power plant designs. I supervised a group of about 20 people who did this, during the latter part of my career, and ww worked with many more engineers in different disciplines on projects that were more complicated.

    I can easily say that when I was a Section Chief, I was presented with a new idea that was entirely novel, or that contradicted existing, approved guidance, about once every two weeks (for about 5 years). Some of those proposals were very good while others were not. It was our job to evaluate them, in light of our experience, and the experience of the other companies that operate nuclear power plants, to determine whether they were “reasonably safe”. They involved new designs, new materials, and new methods for performing calculations.

    The comment by this author that innovators do not care about what has been done in the past, or in the present, is simply silly. All new innovations build on inventions and experience of the past. Even people who come up with blue-sky fantasy inventions need to use materials and methods that have been developed by others. How would they ever build their inventions if they don’t have access to existing materials? Every engineer has a dream material (“unobtanium”) in his mind, with properties that don’t exist, for a project that is otherwise difficult/too expensive to build.

    I challenge this author to name one innovation that sprang, fully formed, from the mind of some inventor with no basis in past experience.

    And yes, sometimes the regulators can be stubborn about approving new ideas. Somethings because there are economic, social and political considerations that will be affected (see the container example described in the article), but also maybe because there are safety considerations (my concern). I have actually laughed at proposals from large corporations that were just plain irresponsible. Told them to go away. The same company also came up with a very innovative and clever analytical method that allowed existing powerplants to operate at much higher power levels. We approved that method.

    In the end, the regulator needs to use experience and knowledge to evaluate new proposals, and innovators need to build on the same experience and knowledge to make things that work better, for less cost, and lower risk to the public. Where else are the regulators and innovators going to find the basis for their ideas, if not from experience? Divine inspiration? I don’t think so.

  • Texas Pete

    OK I have to call rxc out. I’ve been in the Nuclear industry for near 40 years, and have a lot of experience dealing with the NRC.

    The USNRC is definitely an outlier. Those guys actually know what they are doing. A rare beast indeed, as regulators go. (The occasional political appointee not withstanding.)

    As for all the other US regulators I’ve encountered (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Coastal Comission – hahahaha!), the post applies. And worse.

  • CaptDMO

    How odd.
    In the US we had one guy very quietly shoveling in new regulation after new regulation-allegedly “for the collective”-over a period of eight years.
    Now we have a guy who’s job is quietly tossing them out, one after another, at an impressive clip.
    He uses Twitter, like a laser pointer, to keep the banshees focused on the death of “social” justice, and newly discovered “decorum”,
    and out of the way of the Commerce Mine and Rent-Seeker Disposal Team.
    Subsequently,….as if by some Magic Hand……
    Absolutely OT, but *sigh* ironic I suppose. – We had a little snow, and some WICKED high winds here recently. I’ve had to call in a glazier to repair some (BIG-freakin’ expensive) broken windows.

  • bobby b

    “He uses Twitter, like a laser pointer, to keep the banshees focused on the death of “social” justice, and newly discovered “decorum”, and out of the way of the Commerce Mine and Rent-Seeker Disposal Team.”

    Exactly. If the media wasn’t so laser-focused on Trump’s tweets and his imaginary Russian mistresses, they might start to pay unwelcome attention to his judicial renovation and his regulatory death march.

    It’s as if he recognizes the media’s essential ADD, and so whenever he wants them to miss something, he just says “oh, look, a squirrel . . . !” and they’re off.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post.

    Regulation has had many horrible effects – for example it has denied us cheap (and much safer) nuclear power.

  • rxc

    I am not going to defend other agencies, or say that my experience with the NRC was typical of the rest of the Federal govt. I am pretty sure that, as Texas Pete says, we were pretty straight with our licensees (not that we did not have a few rogue Commissioners). Part of it may have been that NRC was run by enginners, many of whom came from the Nuclear Navy or from the US National Laboratories, with a smattering of lawyers who were not crazy. Most of the craziness occurred when one of the Commissioners forgot what their real job is, which is to act as an interface between the technical staff and the politicians, and be able to deal with every exciting or embarrassing event.

    I cannot think of any staff members who burrowed-in from high management positions, after a career as an activist in opposition to nuclear energy. This is what seems to have happened at the EPA, where the activists and true believers run the show, and there are lots of negotiated settlements with outside groups to keep them funded with govt money.

    Local regulatory agencies are a mess. I am involved in a fight with one of them right now, and I am using all the tricks I learned to tie them up in knots. I just write letters quoting their own regulations, and they don’t know what to do to address my concerns. The locals are trying to approve a cell tower for a marina owned by a very prominent political supporter, and their bosses want him to get this reward, but they don’t want to do it in a public forum, so it has been dragging on for nearly 4 years. I have told them that I would not be opposed to the tower, if they follow each and every Federal, state, and local regulation, which would be very expensive for all concerned.

    Once again, to get back to the posting, I think that the author has never been either an innovator or a regulator, and does not understand how the two work, or work together. He is clearly not an engineer – the language seems to indicate that English may not be his native language, so it may even be a problem of translation. I cannot imagine how the stuff I write could be translated into Chinese.