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How can we classify negative effects of new technologies?
Answer by leoMar 05, 20231

I wrote about Class 1 / Class 2 in the context of blockchain for my blog today and wanted to share my updated thoughts after spending a few days thinking.

I think fundamentally, Class 2 problems is just a rephrasing of tragedy of the commons issues. Rephrasing is useful because it gives us a new perspective to approach an issue.

In the piece, I suggest that we can predict Class 2 problems by thinking about the specific features of the technology, eg blockchain, which motivate entrepreneurs to solve the Class 1 problems, and thinking about how those features could be bad when overdone (classic market failure ideas of over supply)

Rather than coming up with a checklist of things to look out for, which we might never complete, I think using the lens of 'what persuades entrepreneurs to solve the Class 1 problems, and how could this be bad' gives a useful way to approach Class 2 safety topics. It also lets us make the argument that 'these Class 2 problems are only here because the technology was so good that we fixed all the Class 1 problems, so let's face them head on, rather than banning the technology (or similar)'

My blog post here

Tell Good Stories

Excellent description of how stories play a critical role. I'm interested in whether the same sorts of stories could be updated and played again, or whether it has just become harder to share these kinds of stories. In the UK, in 1951, there was the Festival of Britain, which was similar to other events of the time: showing how the future could be great. It was at the newly built Southbank Centre. Such events require lots of public sector funding and, particularly to hold frequently, bi-partisan commitment. It seems like this is a prerequisite for national-level storytelling? Today, we have global ExPos, but they are every five years and garner little attention (Dubai 2020, Japan 2025). I would be curious to know what people think it takes to tell these stories. Good piece; really enjoyed reading & have shared with my team (who are planning an Expo just like this!)

How can we classify negative effects of new technologies?
Answer by leoOct 02, 20221

Early adopter influence is one in some cases, I think when the tech plays a part in providing infrastructure, perhaps also elsewhere.

Kelly talks about crypto, and this is my motivating example here:

Today, though decentralised in name, most of the biggest organisations in crypto are controlled by tiny groups of people, typically single digits (for the orgs where voting takes place on the blockchain, you can verify this yourself).

Such concentration isn't really a problem when a space is small, like crypto is today (relatively: <1 million active users by far; etc). But it becomes significant when the tech becomes widely adopted. For example, Ethereum, the most important blockchain right now, is de facto (could argue de jure) controlled by Vitalik Buterin. If trillions of dollars of industries are moved onto Ethereum (like, perhaps the $14tr securities mkt), then that becomes problematic (specially if people less socially-minded then Vitalik are influential!)

New infrastructure technology creates new elites from the people who were there first. I suppose trains are a historic example. That concentration of power only comes when blockchain works really well, but it can be problematic

I suspect the problem comes when these new elites attempt to reframe society. This necessarily causes instability and can block better improvements, even if this reframing is an improvement on the status quo