Nick Bostrom on differential technological development

The Principle of Differential Technological Development

Retard the development of dangerous and harmful technologies, especially ones that raise the level of existential risk; and accelerate the development of beneficial technologies, especially those that reduce the existential risks posed by nature or by other technologies Bostrom, 2002).

The principle of differential technological development is compatible with plausible forms of technological determinism. For example, even if it were ordained that all technologies that can be developed will be developed, it can still matter when they are developed. The order in which they arrive can make an important difference — ideally, protective technologies should come before the destructive technologies against which they protect; or, if that is not possible, then it is desirable that the gap be minimized so that other countermeasures (or luck) may tide us over until robust protection become available. The timing of an invention also influences what sociopolitical context the technology is born into. For example, if we believe that there is a secular trend toward civilization becoming more capable of handling black balls, then we may want to delay the most risky technological developments, or at least abstain from accelerating them.

November 19, 2022