Transformative technologies (TTs) refer to technological advances with a high likelihood of significantly altering society. Specifically, among TTs, there are significant trade-offs between

  1. progress: advancing technological capabilities
  2. participation: enabling public input and self-determination
  3. safety: avoiding disproportionate risks

This reliably leads to a set of three failure modes.

  1. Capitalist Acceleration: sacrificing safety for progress while maintaining basic participation.
    • Participation comes in the form of consumer choice and investor agency
    • The downsides include proliferating risk and lack of public oversight (minimal regulation, auditing, or provision of public goods)
  2. Authoritarian Technocracy: sacrificing participation for safety while maintaining basic progress.
    • Built on the belief that ensuring safety requires entrusting only a few entities (individuals, companies, nation-states) with the ability to develop advanced technologies
    • The downsides include the risks of illegitimacy, the well-documented failures (see: Seeing like a State) of central planning (e.g. the economic calculation problem and the challenges of gathering representative information for centralized decision-making), and the basic injustice of autocracy
  3. Shared Stagnation: sacrificing progress for participation while maintaining basic safety.
    • Combines anti-technology inclinations with concerns about worsening global conditions (such as climate change, inequality, bias and discrimination) due to current trajectories of progress (see: degrowth)
    • The downsides include a lack of investment in necessary economic or technological development, and undervaluing the need for large-scale coordination, e.g. via international bodies or large-scale production.