Differential Technology Development: A Responsible Innovation Principle for Navigating Technology Risks

24 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2022 Last revised: 17 Oct 2022

See all articles by Jonas Sandbrink

Jonas Sandbrink

University of Oxford - Nuffield Department of Medicine; University of Oxford - Future of Humanity Institute

Hamish Hobbs

University of Oxford - Future of Humanity Institute

Jacob Swett

altLabs, Inc.

Allan Dafoe

University of Oxford - Center for the Governance of AI

Anders Sandberg

University of Oxford - Oxford Martin School

Date Written: September 8, 2022

Abstract

Responsible innovation efforts to date have largely focused on shaping individual technologies. However, as demonstrated by the preferential advancement of low-emission technologies, certain technologies reduce risks from other technologies or constitute low-risk substitutes. Governments and other relevant actors may leverage risk-reducing interactions across technology portfolios to mitigate risks beyond climate change. We propose a responsible innovation principle of “differential technology development”, which calls for leveraging risk-reducing interactions between technologies by affecting their relative timing. Thus, it may be beneficial to delay risk-increasing technologies and preferentially advance risk-reducing defensive, safety, or substitute technologies. Implementing differential technology development requires the ability to anticipate or identify impacts and intervene in the relative timing of technologies. We find that both are sometimes viable and that differential technology development may still be usefully applied even late in the diffusion of a harmful technology. A principle of differential technology development may inform government research funding priorities and technology regulation, as well as philanthropic research and development funders and corporate social responsibility measures. Differential technology development may be particularly promising to mitigate potential catastrophic risks from emerging technologies like synthetic biology and artificial intelligence.

Keywords: Responsible innovation, technology policy, technology governance, dual-use research, biosecurity, artificial intelligence

Suggested Citation

Sandbrink, Jonas and Hobbs, Hamish and Swett, Jacob and Dafoe, Allan and Sandberg, Anders, Differential Technology Development: A Responsible Innovation Principle for Navigating Technology Risks (September 8, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4213670 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4213670

Jonas Sandbrink (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Nuffield Department of Medicine ( email )

Old Road Campus
Roosevelt Drive
Oxford, OX3 7FZ
United Kingdom

University of Oxford - Future of Humanity Institute ( email )

Trajan House
Mill Street
Oxford, OX2 0DJ
United Kingdom

Hamish Hobbs

University of Oxford - Future of Humanity Institute ( email )

Suite 8, Littlegate House
16/17 St Ebbe's Street
Oxford, OX1 1PT
United Kingdom

Jacob Swett

altLabs, Inc. ( email )

Berkeley, CA
United States

Allan Dafoe

University of Oxford - Center for the Governance of AI ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

Anders Sandberg

University of Oxford - Oxford Martin School ( email )

University of Oxford
34 Broad Street
Oxford, OX1 3BD
United Kingdom

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