Adam Thierer is a Senior Research Fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the author of “Permissionless Innovation” (2016) and “Evasive Entrepreneurs & the Future of Governance” (2020).
If you haven’t already read the work of the late Aaron Wildavsky, I would highly recommend it because he devoted much of his life’s work to the exact issue you tee up here. I’d recommend two of his books to start. The first is Risk and Culture co-authored with Mary Douglas, and the second is his absolutely remarkable Searching for Safety, which served as the inspiration for my book on Permissionless Innovation.
Here are a few choice quotes from Risk and Culture:
And then in Searching for Safety, Wildavsky went on to build on that logic as he warned of the dangers of “trial without error” reasoning, and contrasted it with the trial-and-error method of evaluating risk and seeking wise solutions to it. Wildavsky argued that wisdom and safety are born of experience and that we can learn how to be wealthier and healthier as individuals and a society only by first being willing to embrace uncertainty and even occasional failure. I’ve probably quoted this passage from that book in more of my work than anything else I can think of:
In my next book on AI governance, I extend this framework to AI risk.
In his 2013 book, “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better,” Clive Thompson noted that “dystopian predictions are easy to generate” and “doomsaying is emotionally self-protective: if you complain that today’s technology is wrecking the culture, you can tell yourself you’re a gimlet-eyed critic who isn’t hoodwinked by high-tech trends and silly, popular activities like social networking. You seem like someone who has a richer, deeper appreciation for the past and who stands above the triviality of today’s life.” (p. 283)
I think that really nails it.