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Incentivized technologies not pursued

This is a collection of cases where someone seemingly had a large incentive to pursue a technology, and did not.


'Resisted technological temptations'

These are cases where incentives to pursue a technology were overcome by concerns about downsides not imminently accruing to the decision-maker (e.g. risks to distant people, ethical concerns). These cases are being collected via the Resisted Technological Temptations Project.

Investigated cases

Technology Key Actors Value Resisted Time Period Explanation
Geoengineering Global Organizations, Large Countries \$1012-1013/yr by mid-century 19741) / 20062) to Present Scientists' and environmental groups' opposition inhibit experiments needed before implementation
Nuclear power Some Countries \$109-1010/yr and 103-104 lives/yr 19643) / 19874) / 20115) to Present Political decisions important; local opposition grows to national movement; warning shots
Vaccine challenge trials Pharmaceutical Companies, IRBs \$1012-1013 and 105-106 lives lost for COVID-19 19746) to Present Asymmetric justice for IRBs slows medical research

Plausible cases

This is a non-exhaustive list of plausible cases that we have not investigated.

  • Chlorofluorocarbons, many actors, 1985-present
  • Nanotechnology, scientists and governments, five decades ago to present
  • Airships / Zeppelins
  • Genetic engineering of humans
  • Some scientific studies prevented by the burden of IRB / GDPR compliance
  • Recreational drug development
  • Dietary restrictions, in most (all?) human cultures
  • GMOs, in some countries
  • Atomic gardening
  • Use of nuclear explosions in construction
  • Fracking, in some countries
  • Various weapons (nuclear, chemical, biological, land mines, etc), in some countries and at some times

Other notable failures of selfish expected value maximization in pursuing technologies

Plausible cases

(We have not investigated these cases)

  • AI winters
  • Delay in nuclear weapons research early in WWII
  • Excalibur
Geoengineering proposed.
Scientific taboo broken.
Bodega Bay Power Plant canceled in US.
Italian nuclear referendum.
Germany decides to shut down nuclear power plants.
National Research Act created IRBs
responses_to_ai/technological_inevitability/incentivized_technologies_not_pursued/start.txt · Last modified: 2023/05/06 15:15 by jeffreyheninger