Quantum Revolution 2.0 - Who's in Charge?

 A number of social actors come to mind as candidates for guiding technology development in a manner that is consistent with our human values. 

However, if they were the only designers, two of the most often cited social players would certainly be overwhelmed: 

The ability of social decision-makers (politicians, corporate leaders, media workers, and others) to respond to the ever-accelerating dynamics of technological change is much too sluggish. 

This is due to a lack of understanding among our political, economic, and cultural leaders of the present level of scientific research, among other things. 

Scientists will be unable to regulate technological development as well. In reality, the reverse is true. 

They, like all other members of society, are primarily guided by market logic. 

If they create new technology based on their ideas, they might become millionaires today. 

Furthermore, they are constantly reliant on the government or other organizations to provide funding for their study. 

The free market is a third socially productive force. 

Until now, technology advancement has almost entirely followed the logic of market-based (or military) application. 

To put it another way, whatever was feasible and provided someone a financial (or military) edge was done. 

Can we expect that the processes of free market competition will best regulate technological development for the greater good? 

Allowing the free market to determine development would imply that Google, Facebook, and Amazon would decide whether quantum computers or greater artificial intelligence would be used. 

Even the most ardent advocates of free market philosophy may find it difficult to believe that this will work out nicely for all of us. 

In reality, when it comes to ethical problems, the market is a terrible arbitrator. 

To determine how much of future technology development should be left to the free market, we must first understand and identify the factors that prevent it from making the optimal choices for society as a whole. 

Aside from the possibility of billions of dollars in commerce, which would almost certainly lead to insurmountable conflicts of interest, there are additional issues with blindly trusting the forces of the free market: 

1. Externalities: 

One group's economic actions may have an effect on other groups—possibly even all individuals on the planet—without the actors bearing the full cost. 

Externalities are most noticeable in public products that do not have a market price. 

Environmental resources and general health are examples of this. 

Some examples include: 

• polluting the environment still costs the polluter little or nothing; 

• climate-damaging CO2 emissions are still not associated with higher costs for producers; 

• the safety risks associated with nuclear power generation or natural gas fracking are largely borne by the general public; and 

• while the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture produces higher yields for livestock.

2. Rent-seeking: 

Powerful groups often succeed in altering political and economic norms to their own benefit, resulting in different kinds of governmental guarantees that do not improve or even worsen general societal well-being. 

Corruption is the most apparent example. 

3. Asymmetries in information: 

In 1970, economist Georg Akerlof demonstrated in his article "The Market for Lemons" that free markets cannot operate effectively unless buyers and sellers have equal access to information.

However, significant information access asymmetries can be found in a variety of markets, including the labor market, the market for financial products (which allows banks to charge exorbitant fees for their investment products), the healthcare and food markets, the energy market, and, most importantly in our context, the market for new scientific knowledge and technologies. 

Anyone who wishes to balance the benefits of a new technology against its dangers must first learn all there is to know about it. 

The creator and producer, on the other hand, are the ones who know the most about it, and they are more interested in the possibilities for profit than the dangers. 

In a free market system, lying is simply part of the game for profit-driven businesses. 

This involves spreading doubt about accepted scientific knowledge on a systematic basis. 

Akerloff was subsequently given the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001 for this discovery. 

4. Cognitive Irrationalities: 

Standard economic theory implies that we are aware of our own best interests. 

Behavioral economics, on the other hand, has long shown that humans are much less reasonable than proponents of the free market would have us think. 

As a result, rather than long-term logical concerns, producers and consumers are often driven by short-term emotional impulses. 

These are the four reasons why the free market is inadequate for directing socially acceptable technology development. 

The exploitation logic of capitalism is a powerful force that works against distinction and ethical thought in the creation and use of new technology. 

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Quantum Computing here.

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