…There are two potential reactions. One is to slam on the brakes before artificial intelligence subverts national security using deep fakes, persuades us to abandon our spouses, or sucks up all the resources of the universe to make, say, paper clips (a scenario some people actually worry about). The opposite reaction is to encourage the developers to forge ahead, dealing with problems as they arise.

Adam Thierer, an innovation and technology policy analyst at the free-market R Street Institute, labels the cautious approach as “anticipatory ethics” and the less cautious one as “evasive entrepreneurism.” He leans toward the latter camp, which sometimes goes by the slogan, “Better to seek forgiveness than permission.” 

“By acting as entrepreneurs in the political arena, innovators expand opportunities for themselves and for the public more generally, which would not have been likely if they had done things by the book,” Thierer wrote last week in a Medium post, quoting from his own 2020 book, “Evasive Entrepreneurs and the Future of Government.”

I sympathize with Thierer to an extent. I have my doubts about overly cautious approaches such as the precautionary principle, a concept in European Union law that says that “if it is possible that a given policy or action might cause harm to the public or the environment and if there is still no scientific agreement on the issue, the policy or action in question should not be carried out…”