REGULATING TOMORROW: THE INFLUENCE OF EMERGING AND DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES (EDTS) ON EXPORT CONTROLS
1. WHAT ARE EMERGING AND DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES (EDTs)?
Emerging technologies are those in the early stages of development. They have the potential to significantly impact industries or society by delivering substantial enhancements in the performance and efficiency of systems and processes. These technologies may not be fully realized or widely adopted yet but show promise for future applications. For instance, the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) has empowered businesses to analyze vast datasets at unprecedented speeds, transforming decision-making processes. Edge computing has brought computation and data storage closer to the source of data generation (e.g., IoT devices) rather than relying on a centralized cloud-based system.
On the other hand, disruptive technologies are more impactful. They significantly alter an existing market, displacing established technologies and business models. They often introduce a new way of doing things that can render existing products or services obsolete.
Both emerging and disruptive technologies are often in the center of attention of regulators, as they impact not only society but also security and economic considerations. For instance, the EU has recently published a list of technology areas considered highly likely to present the most sensitive and immediate risks related to technology security and technology leakage. They comprise a total of 10 categories, each with precise examples.
EXAMPLES OF TECHNOLOGIES
ADVANCED SEMICONDUCTORS TECHNOLOGIES
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TECHNOLOGIES
ADVANCED CONNECTIVITY, NAVIGATION AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES
ADVANCED SENSING TECHNOLOGIES
SPACE & PROPULSION TECHNOLOGIES
ROBOTICS AND AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS
ADVANCED MATERIALS, MANUFACTURING AND RECYCLING TECHNOLOGIES
2. THE IMPACT OF EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES ON EXPORT CONTROLS As already mentioned at the beginning, one of the attributes of EDTs is the provision of substantial enhancements in the performance and efficiency of systems and processes. These enhancements are critical for export controls, as the regulations heavily rely on the technical characteristics of a product to determine its suitability for controls. The descriptions of dual-use codes can sometimes go into an incredible level of detail to more efficiently mitigate diversion risks, or potential violations of human rights.
Given the EDTs potential to advance both civil and military domains, there are more and more risks for civil and military fusion. In practice it will make product classifications process more complex, and more technical. In this realm, 3D printing stands out as a compelling example. As 3D printers become increasingly adept at manufacturing critical components, such as those found in airplane engines, a pertinent question arises in the domain of export control: does the method of production influence the classification of a product? Consider, for instance, the classification of drones—would a traditionally manufactured drone and its 3D-printed counterpart fall under the same classification code?
This raises intriguing considerations for export control regulations. The advent of advanced manufacturing technologies, particularly 3D printing, introduces a layer of complexity in the classification process. Traditional and 3D-printed versions of the same product may differ not only in their physical attributes but also in the precision of their production methods. The question then becomes whether such distinctions should be taken into account when determining the appropriate export control classification.
Furthermore, with the 3D printing and additive manufacturing, items that were once mass-produced and easily categorized may now have unique specifications that make their classification and control more nuanced.
3. WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT ON THE REGULATORY SIDE?
Identification and monitoring of these technologies would be the first step. Based on the list of technologies shared by the EU, one can identify those not yet covered by the export control lists or covered only partially, particularly at the component level. Detecting these technologies is a complex task, as each section of the control lists would require a technical expert in the field.
Then, the items not yet covered need to undergo assessment by regulators, especially concerning their complexity, flexibility, and overall exposure to export control risks. Based on the conclusions reached, lawmakers will have the option of reviewing their export control lists or adapting their export control regulations. This process, in addition to considering risk exposure, is also likely to take into account states' strategic interests and national security concerns.
The Team @ RespectUs