Yellow lights for emerging technologies

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Science  24 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6246, pp. 384-385
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3885

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There is an infuriating, often confusing four-way stop intersection near my home. The city refuses to install traffic lights, because devices such as roundabouts, four-way stop signs, and flashing yellow lights, which require drivers to slow and scan before entering, can result in fewer accidents, as well as a faster and more even flow of traffic. There is a lesson to be learned here for regulation of new technologies. Clear, decisive rules are seductive. New drugs cannot be sold untold until proven safe. Food supplements are sold until proven unsafe. Although such clean demarcations can be reassuring, they do not work well for technologies whose applications cannot be presumed safe or unsafe.