View Precautionary vs. proactionary principles
The Proactionary Principle was formulated as an opposing view point to the Precautionary Principle.
The Precautionary Principle is a moral and political principle which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would take the action. The Proactionary Principle is based on the concept that consequences of actions in complex systems are often unpredictable and irreversible. It also considers the observation that, historically, the most useful and important technological innovations were neither obvious nor well-understood.
The Precautionary Principle implies that there is a responsibility to intervene and protect the public from exposure to harm where scientific investigation discovers a plausible risk. The protections that mitigate suspected risks can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that more robustly support an alternative explanation. There are various versions of the Precautionary Principle.
Areas applicable to the Precautionary Principle include: Global warming, extinction of species, introduction of new and potentially harmful products into the environment, threatening biodiversity (e.g., genetically modified organisms), persistent or acute pollution, food safety, and other biosafety issues. The Precautionary Principle is often applied to biological fields because changes cannot be easily contained and have the potential of being global.
Application of the principle modifies the status of innovation and risk assessment: it is not the risk that must be avoided or amended, but a potential risk that must be prevented.
The Proactionary Principle is formulated by the extropian philosopher Max More as follows:
People’s freedom to innovate technologically is highly valuable, even critical, to humanity. This implies several imperatives when restrictive measures are proposed: Assess risks and opportunities according to available science, not popular perception. Account for both the costs of the restrictions themselves, and those of opportunities foregone. Favor measures that are proportionate to the probability and magnitude of impacts, and that have a high expectation value. Protect people’s freedom to experiment, innovate, and progress.”
Dr. More recommends 10 principles in his paper Proactionary Principle:
1. Freedom to innovate
7. Symmetrical treatment
10. Renew and Refresh
In theory, sufficient study of a proposed action may yield acceptable levels of predictability. However, such study is often impractical. For instance, in releasing a new life form into the biosphere whether genetically-modified plant, animal, or bacteria one would have to simulate the biosphere to achieve “acceptable levels of predictability.” More’s first principle, freedom to innovate, would place the burden of proof on those who propose a restrictive measure in such a case.
The principle states that the costs of imposing a restriction must be balanced against the potential costs of damage due to a new technology, rather than only assessing damages.