Peaceful Use of Lasers in Space: Context-Based Legitimacy in Global Governance of Large Technical Systems

Alternatives 3 (46):63–85 (2021)
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Technology offers unique sets of opportunities, from human flourishing to civilization survival, but also challenges, from partial misuse to global apocalypse. Yet technology is shaped by the social environment in which it is developed and used, prompting questions about its desirable governance format. In this context, we look at governance challenges of large technical systems, specifically the peaceful use of high-power lasers in space, in order to propose a conceptual framework for legitimate global governance. Specifically, we adopt a context-based approach to legitimacy to address the trade-offs between effectiveness (output legitimacy) and inclusivity (input legitimacy) in the governance of large technical systems. We show that distinguishing two basic phases of space laser policy which call for different legitimacy criteria helps balance out the trade-offs without sacrificing either effectiveness or inclusivity. Finally, we construe LTSs’ governance as a tool for creating globally networked spaces which may enable coordinated global democratic governance.

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