"Tracking the spread of biological technologies"

I have an editorial in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists dated 21 November, 2008 (Open Access).

Regular readers will recall that I do not see that history provides useful examples of effective regulation of distributed technologies.  Here are the final 'graphs from the editorial:

The counterargument typically relies on inspiring fear and encouraging proactivity. We cannot wait for perfect policy to implement security measures, the thinking goes. Yet this argument obscures the investigation and debate that must come first: Is it at all possible to slow down the actions of potential aggressors? Will regulation increase knowledge of threats or further obscure them? Finally, will these efforts, whether successful or not, also retard crucial research required to produce countermeasures for both natural and artificial threats?

Most proponents of regulation have not addressed these questions. Greater knowledge of potential threats is clearly desirable. Reducing the threat from bioerror and bioterror is an even more important goal. Formulating effective policy requires acknowledging the pace and proliferation of biological technologies as well as carefully weighing any potential negative impacts of action.