Innovation is a Double-Edged Sword

From the Industrial Revolution to the digital age, each wave of technological advancement has encountered resistance. Yet, the pace of progress seems inevitable.

Innovation is a Double-Edged Sword

Here we go again. Are you bored, excited, or scared about this topic?  Automation technology which includes robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) continues to march on at a rapid pace in 2024. We are expecting dramatic transformations in industries, economies, and daily life. While it offers vast potential for innovation and efficiency, its impact is a double-edged sword, presenting significant challenges alongside its benefits. Universal Basic Income, Neo-Feudalism, Luddites, Accelerationism, Singularity, AI Regulation, and Open Source are some terms being thrown around about what is happening before our eyes. We just saw a demo that showed huge leaps in creating an AI Software Engineer.

The Bright Side of Automation

Efficiency and Productivity

Automation technology is supposed to give us the ability to streamline operations, reduce tedious manual tasks, and increase productivity. A brief look at technological progress is a testament to that fact. Look at automation historically in manufacturing, logistics, and services. People managed to drive down costs and improve product quality.

Innovation and Economic Growth

Automation fosters innovation by enabling new products and services and creating markets that previously did not exist. Went from being mostly agrarian-based societies to having textile mills and then corporate offices.

Lower Barriers of Entry

Absolute beginners can make passable products with generative AI, 3D printing, and other tools. While not at a world-class level, it's a start and most people don't eat gourmet food for their daily meals anyway. it's an opportunity for people to get stuck as expert beginners or to get over the initial hurdle on the path to mastery.

The Flip Side of Automation

Job Displacement and Inequality

One of the most cited drawbacks of automation is its potential to displace workers, leading to unemployment and widening economic inequality. That didn't go well in the late 19th century going into the 20th century. Take a look at the IMF's analysis in the chart below.  Almost 40% of jobs are at high risk of being automated, with low-skilled workers facing the highest threat. In our atomistic and individualist economic order, it's not looking good. It will be a "screw you, I got mine" attitude vs a "eat the rich" sentiment bubbling in the coming years.  This displacement will exacerbate social and economic disparities, creating a divide between those with the skills to thrive in a high-tech economy and those without. If we do not reconceptualize how people think of work and interpersonal relationships, then we can expect heated tensions.

Ethical and Privacy Concerns

AI and all the data acquisition raise significant ethical and privacy issues. The use of AI in surveillance, decision-making processes, and personal data analysis has led to concerns over privacy violations and bias. Some regulation has been brought up by several people. Some have criticized the attempt to regulate as mere attempts at regulatory capture.  But you can't deny the security risks and that is governments are shivering in their boots.

Dependence on Technology

The increasing reliance on automation can lead to vulnerabilities, including cybersecurity threats and the potential for system failures. I don't see how any of these young whippersnappers are ever going to get off those funny gadgets of theirs. Worse would be being reliant on big corporates for state-of-the-art technology.

Watching The Futility of Reactionaries

The march of innovation, with its relentless advance and transformational power, often elicits a spectrum of reactions. Among these, the efforts of reactionaries—those who resist changes brought about by new technologies and innovations—hold a particularly interesting place in the discourse on progress. Despite their intentions, history and contemporary analysis suggest that attempts to control or halt the tide of innovation are not only often futile but can also inadvertently spur further advancements. This essay delves into the reasons behind this futility and explores the dynamics at play.

The Inexorable Pace of Progress

Innovation, by its very nature, is a force of change that reshapes societies, economies, and daily life. From the Industrial Revolution to the digital age, each wave of technological advancement has encountered resistance. Yet, the pace of progress seems inevitable. The fundamental reason for this relentless advance is human curiosity and the inherent drive to solve problems, improve conditions, and explore new frontiers. As historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari points out, human societies have always been in a state of flux, with innovation acting as a catalyst for evolution rather than a process that can be selectively halted.

The Streisand Effect on Innovation

Attempts to suppress or control innovation often lead to the Streisand Effect, a phenomenon where efforts to hide, remove, or censor information only increase its public awareness. Similarly, when authorities or groups attempt to restrict technological advancements or innovative ideas, they often inadvertently increase interest and development in those very areas. Why are you trying to hoard all the power to yourself, you evil bastards!? This phenomenon is evident in the history of the internet and digital technologies, where attempts to control information flow have led to more sophisticated means of data sharing and encryption technologies.

The Global Nature of Innovation

In our interconnected world, innovation is not confined to geographic or political boundaries. Efforts by one country or group to control or suppress a particular technology only mean that its development will continue elsewhere. Naively assuming that people will give away their power for your interests isn't going to make this issue better. The global nature of research and development means that if one region suppresses an innovation, another will take it up. Corporate espionage is a thing! Company secrets will just cross the border if you go full authoritarian. Nobody has ever controlled information from spreading, they only have burnt books that can be copied or committed to memory and re-emerge in another state.

Adaptation and Integration Over Suppression

History shows that adaptation and integration of new technologies often yield better outcomes than attempts at suppression. The printing press, for instance, faced significant opposition from authorities fearing the spread of subversive ideas. However, its eventual acceptance revolutionized communication, education, and society at large. Some people will whine about that while using the very same communication medium that they condemn.  Today, the dialogue around AI and automation mirrors these past concerns, with the general sentiment leaning towards embracing these technologies while managing their ethical and societal impacts is more fruitful than trying to impede their development.


The futility of reactionary attempts to control innovation lies in the very nature of human progress and curiosity. The concerns are real but the intentions are both malevolent and benevolent. You can not stop such a powerful force easily and frankly, I believe it will take on the form of a dystopian totalitarian hellhole to do it. Instead, we should be embracing change and working to mitigate its adverse effects, society can harness the power of innovation for the greater good by putting the power into the hands of the common man by rewarding open-source initiatives while kicking the unrestrained greed of private actors to the curb, ensuring that progress benefits the many rather than the few. Reactionary stances may slow the tide temporarily, but the wave of innovation, propelled by human ingenuity and the intrinsic drive for improvement, is unlikely to be halted because what will you do when the innovators deflect to another state like China anyway?