Differential technology development: An innovation governance consideration for navigating technology risks

30 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2022 Last revised: 3 Dec 2023

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

The advancement of low-emission technologies to curb climate change highlights how the relative timing of technological developments can be used to curb a negative societal outcome. We propose that a similar approach can be used to generate mitigation strategies for technology-associated risks. This “differential technology development” approach involves considering opportunities to affect the relative timing of new innovations to reduce a specific risk across a technology portfolio. For instance, it may be beneficial to delay or halt risk-increasing technologies and preferentially advance risk-reducing defensive, safety, or substitute technologies. This approach is not a substitute for broader responsible innovation governance, but rather one lens which may help generate governance options that can then undergo more holistic consideration. To be of practical use, 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. Consideration 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 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: An innovation governance consideration 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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