A speed limit for technological progress?

Ivan Illich argues in his book ‘Energy and Equity’ that the ability to travel beyond a certain speed has caused inequality and ruin to humanity. Moreover, he proposes that the world would be better off with a speed limit closer to that of a bicycle. Cars, the primarily tools that we use to travel faster, have made forced upon us the necessity of having to spend more time traveling for necessities, and reducing mobility of the walking person at the same time.

I entire agree with Illich. Of course, the world being as it is, a simple implementation of a speed limit will not solve the problems brought upon by the transformation of the world due to our past ability for quick transportation, although I still believe such a limit might cause restructuring and improvement eventually.

What about a speed limit for technological development? We need such a speed limit because technological development is too fast now to be good for us. It is at a speed that most people cannot handle. If thousands of jobs are replaced tomorrow in the time it takes for some code to compile, then how will humanity cope with that?

Slower development would help people transition to more advanced societies, and it might also make people think twice about developing technology in the first place. For example, imagine if AI companies would be required to wait three years before releasing their creations? Perhaps we could prepare a little better for the onslaught of AI. Of course, in the case of AI, I recommend halting progress there altogether because I doubt we will ever have the maturity to handle it.

But at any rate, how can we implement speed limits for technological growth? One possibility is to require everyone to submit new technological inventions of a certain kind of an evaluation and ethics board. Although it might be difficult to specify which technologies need be submitted, as a rule, large technology companies like Google and Microsoft would be required to be under intense scrutiny for all their creations.

I don’t know of too many practical solutions to this problem, unfortunately. However, as a society, we should think very carefully about this problem. Extremely fast technological development could cause serious accidents, just like driving too fast causes car crashes. If we limit the speed of technological development, we would have a better chance of avoiding such accidents.


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