Beware sociopathic innovation


Learn to recognize REAL innovation, instead.

Beware sociopathic innovation /img/eye_of_sauron.jpg

Alberto Cottica recently wrote a long, great post about how and why a better name for much of what we call “innovation” should be “sociopathy instead. In a nutshell, Alberto argues that:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) excels at everything, except solving problems that matter (and one of the many reasons for this is that lack of diversity inside the AI workforce)
  • many AI applications already being developed “for mass consumption”, from advertising to surveillance and deepfakes, are detrimental to human well-being. Or, as he puts it, “it is when you use it for evil, dehumanizing purposes that AI really shines”

Similar considerations apply to the blockchain. Says Alberto:

Beware sociopathic innovation /img/vint-cerf-on-blockchain-20180720.jpg
  • since its apperance in 2008, the blockchain has been applied to many problems, without ever working better than conventional solutions to the same problems, based on conventional databases
  • a major, never repeated enough reason for that failure is that “blockchains can certify their own, internal, in-database operations, but they cannot certify anything that exists outside the database”. Or that happens outside it, I would add
  • the only entities trustable enough to certify what is inserted into a blockchain are major governments or similar institutions. Entities, that is, that exactly because they were already trustable, “do not need the blockchain at all”
  • at the end of the day, “any technology which is not an (alleged) currency and which incorporates blockchain anyway would always work better without it”
  • besides being a solution in search of a problem, blockchain is “a major source of problems in itself”, from creating even more inequality than there already is to consuming lots of energy that should be really used elsewhere, and enabling certain kinds of frauds, or other crimes
  • summarizing, so far the blockchain has been “a net societal bad [that] consumes resources to deliver a casino” (even when it is in fancy, apparently artist-empowering formats like NFTs)

Why I wrote THIS post

This post of mine has two purposes: the first is to make more people read Alberto’s full post, because I do agree with his concern that “the two most hyped technical innovation of the past 20 years, the blockchain and artificial intelligence, diminishing human well-being instead of enhancing it”

Alberto’s post is much longer than my synthesis above, but is not a difficult read and includes plenty of concrete examples, and links to useful resources. DO read it, please.

My second, unavoidably self-interested reason for this post is to point everybody to many more concrete examples and proofs of what Alberto writes, in the easiest possible format. If you need such material for you and your friends, relatives, students… I dare say you will find plenty of it in my posts about real innovation, blockchain, artificial intelligence, or even the internet of things, driverless cars or 5g. Enjoy and share them as much as you see fit, let me know (even on Twitter) how you did it and how we may work together in this mission. Ditto for suggestions for more posts.

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