How can humanity grapple with rapidly growing technology?

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I hope to explore the possibilities that the human race has, and how their decisions as a group, at the top level, and the individual level create these possibilities.

Below is a diagram of the initial choices that the government/members of high society have when addressing new technology. Obviously, this issue has nearly unlimited paths, so this is a simplified version.

Governments and the higher-ups of society can be the only ones responsible for new technologies in some instances and can promote society as a whole, or create even more disparity. For example, what Putin is doing with Ethereum right now is a good example of technology being used by the higher-ups for economic and political gains. From a Nash equilibria standpoint, this is technically the most beneficial option for the government, as long as they keep the people in check. Other technologies, though, such as new transportation methods, can easily be implemented for all levels of society to use.

The key piece when implementing technology into society is regulation, and trying to find what the best possible scenario is and whether that is achievable. But perfect predictions for this aren’t possible, but rather the outcomes are on a spectrum, in which certain actions can influence. The internet is a good example of this. To some extent, it has run its course, but there has been government regulation, as well. Sites like Napster were born from the internet taking its course, but regulation was quick to come in. But this regulation didn’t entirely do what they thought it would. Through legal loopholes, fines weren’t even being paid and the regulations only worked to a certain extent. This became irreverent though, once iTunes came into the market. It’s much easier for the government to wait instead of trying something preemptive. For the individual, it’s completely dependent on technology. Is it a free music site, or a new addictive drug? For society, however, regulation of a responsible, representative government is always preferable.

Governments and the higher-ups of society can be the only ones responsible for new technologies in some instances and can promote society as a whole, or create even more disparity. For example, what Putin is doing with Ethereum right now is a good example of technology being used by the higher-ups for economic and political gains. From a Nash equilibria standpoint, this is technically the most beneficial option for the government, as long as they keep the people in check. Other technologies, though, such as new transportation methods, can easily be implemented for all levels of society to use.

The third option would be to reject the new technology altogether. In a lot of cases, especially if other societies are not rejecting it, this can create an underground market. Drugs are a perfect example of this. Because of the hard enforcement of drug laws, especially in the US, the drug trade can flourish. Governments can either compromise, by decriminalizing drugs, for example, or regulating them, like many countries so especially for cannabis. Or they can fully commit, and try to irradiate it at all costs; start a “war”. Sometimes, though, rejection can be slightly plausible. Although “living in the dark” is not something that can happen 100%, it can is sometimes plausible. For example, although some countries still use weaponized chemical gas, in the western world, that has for the most part been eradicated. 

Technology as a game

Through the different scenarios, we see the players of the game emerge. The government/the shot callers are the ones initiating this sequential game, and society as a whole is reacting to it. But society isn’t always acting in their best interest, and this is why although not necessarily a player, the individual must be considered as well. Through a disconnect in society, society can sometimes harm itself more than the government can harm them, and society may influence the government in undesirable ways.

Because of the ambiguity of the topic, numerical payoffs are hard to assign, and it all depends on the technology at hand; however, some outcomes, such as the “war” option can obviously be overruled. That being said, here are my payoff values from 0-100 and ranking of each option, (society, government) but I will leave out “live in the dark” as in my opinion, it could be 0-100 for both players depending on the situation.
80-100, 60 used for the betterment of society.
20, 80 used by higher ups only
50, 50 implement with regulations
35, 15 reject and then compromise
30, 20 implement with no regulation
0, 10 “war” 

In a traditional game, the Pareto optimal solution would be “use for the betterment of society”. But since this is less traditional, in some scenarios the society doesn’t have the opportunity to respond, and even if they do they often are unable to act strategically. 

 

Here is some further reading and discussion on the topic, less related to game theory:

The Guardian 

Business Insider

Pew Research Center

Here are my sources

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1 comment

  1. This is a super cool idea Owen! I have never really thought about how humans adapt to the new technology that comes to us on the daily. I really like your use of the spider web charts because they are a good way to visually explain your ideas about this adaption to technology! Good job!

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