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Danil Kerimi of the World Economic Forum on the Need for Nimble Regulation to Foster Innovation

This story is part of our live coverage of the inaugural Arrell Food Summit (May 22 to 24). The summit gathers some of the world’s eminent thinkers to discuss the future of food and agriculture.

When it comes to regulation, big thinkers tend to side with one of two proverbs:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

Danil Kerimi, Head of Information Technologies and Electronics Industries for the World Economic Forum (aka the Davos Conference), is the omelet-eating kind.

During his keynote speech on the second morning of the Arrell Food Summit, he tells the crowd about the “red flag law”, passed by England near the end of the 19th century, which required someone to wave a flag in front of a “driverless vehicle” to warn pedestrians of the oncoming car. Within a decade the rule was scrapped, but not before the legal handicap gave America an advantage over the British in the automobile industry.

“It’s not about ‘beware of regulating new technology’,” says Kerimi. “It’s about proceeding smartly. Don’t put a system that’s hard to change. Because it took parliament a few years to recognize that. And by the way they did a fantastic job later on. They came up with the rules of the road, traffic lights and speed limits. It’s about providing a regulatory framework that makes sense, but allowing ourselves space to try things out as we explore.”

Asked about social media, a technology that has radically destabilized essential pillars of our society, and cryptocurrency, a technology that promises to do as much, Kerimi is cautious.

“We often talk about application rather than technology itself. Blockchain technology can provide fantastic opportunity outside of financial services sector. Energy could be really empowered by blockchain. So the regulators are very well aware that they need to become much more outcome driven, rather than input driven. So they need to start thinking about not regulating technology as such, but thinking about the systemic impact, to prevent the negative outcome, rather than focus on technology itself. Because technology is moving too fast.”