Ignoring the bad

Overlooking the downsides of new technologies could be costly

Published on 
2 min, 347 words

Categories: technology ai

Nearly every technology can be used for good and bad. Quite a bold statement but something I believe is true.

The venture capitalist Fred Wilson had a recent post extolling the virtues of "software that you can't shut down". He explains how blockchains, and in particular smart contracts, could be used to deploy software that once running could not be shut down by a nation state - or anyone else for that matter.

He gives a nice rosy example of children using an AI to learn to read. If someone deemed it illegal, for whatever reason, then they would not be able to stop it as it is a decentralised service that is running all over the world. He asserts that it is a good thing that "the powers that be" can't decide that certain things are bad and shut then down.

Personally I think this is a very blinkered view. Yes, there are potential benefits but there are also a whole host of downsides. Imagine malicious software that couldn't be shut down - whether running a denial of service attack or extorting money in some way. Imagine the software distributing some form of illegal content that couldn't be stopped; or being used to harass people by stalking or blackmailing them. Most technologies have a dark side to them and it is something that tends to be glossed over.

We are working on a distributed ledger. We had a conversation/meeting at the outset where we discussed the potential negative uses of the platform we were going to develop and how we could prevent them as much as possible. We made a conscious decision to discuss the matter.

It is very disappointing that such a high profile figure in the tech industry does not highlight the downsides and the risks. Then again he is heavily invested in the whole Web3 world and may not want to risk that.


Software That You Can't Shut Down - AVC