Is Innovation with a capital I an absolute good? And for who? Seeing that ecological modeling has been applied in Game Theory for a few decades now, as well as in Evolutionary Psychology, how about modeling innovation as a vaccine. And what is a vaccine if not a small dose of a virus?

Of course innovation is a virus, isn’t it? And just as we don’t go injecting ourselves with every latest pandemic just to see what it would do to our immune systems, could it be that some discretion and discrimination with respect to any given innovation is not a bad thing? You aren’t a neo-Luddite if you ask about the dangers of Jumbo-sized Drones carrying your entire family across the Atlantic, for example.

But there is a high-priesthood of innovation that snarls and hisses at any attempt to curtail their thought experiments made into goo, or plastic, or metal. You’re a truck driver following that long white line? Worried about driverless cars and trucks? Who cares, statistically speaking you are a (somewhat) aging cohort who will fade away, like the organs of the state in, say, the Soviet Union.

You’re a parent worried about the lack of background checks on Uber drivers, seeing your daughter takes taxis or Ubers to and from soccer practice? Don’t be a Luddite! It’s all good! All innovation is great! And you’re just dumb, middle class parents anyway, so shut up.

Ah, but if you’re someone who enjoys a little recreational sailing in a third-hand boat you picked up at a bargain and lovingly refinished in your driveway over an 18-month period. Driving your family crazy. You know what’s coming? Unmanned ships, brought to your harbor by the Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications (AAWA) initiative. With Rolls Royce as a big promoter and potential benefactor. The goal? Get rid of all those expensive and unsightly crew members. Less space needed and less human-centric systems to house in your new AAWA-ready ship. And more cargo space.

Imagine. Some operator in England or Hong Kong or Bangalore misses a keystroke and the enormous cargo ship entering Chesapeake Bay increases rather than decreases speed as you try to get your beloved little sailboat the heck out of it’s way. The operator realizes his error and shifts course – right into you and your boat. One less neo-Luddite crowding up our not-yet-smart-enough planet.

We are at the stage where a reasonably careful consideration of each major innovation’s benefits and costs to society – that means people by the way – is undertaken. By legislatures and courts. There will continue to be many innovations that are a net positive. But let’s at least allow – through the courts or the legislature – them the opportunity to show they’re worth the risks if they are clearly going to disrupt society in a major way. Call me a Luddite? Think that it’s overworked, distracted, texting drivers, operators, pilots etc. who are the real problem? Careful for what you wish.

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