Technological Primacy

Technological Primacy

// 12/02/2018 first version

// 6/03/2018 added ref to legislation wrt 5G rollout in CH

Much of the history of the 20th century can be framed as certain societies coming to terms with the primacy of economics. The rise of the bourgeoisie (as referred to by Marxists) lead to a revolution that shaped much of the 20th century: The communist revolution. It was a revolution against the rise of capitalism as a new, fundamental mechanism of governance in societies. Most countries (typically in the "west") embraced these new changes and codified them into law by allowing persons to have ownership of the means of production. The communist revolution however refused this idea and would only tolerate the equal ownership of the means of production by everyone. Capitalism and the primacy of economics was seen as a threat that would destroy society. If capitalism was left to be the dominant mechanism of governance in a society, it would necessarily lead to social unrest (or so the Marxist theory goes).

Now - roughly a hundred years later - we know that societies all around the world have largely abandoned the communist model and instead introduced a social model that enables or even fosters private ownership. Policies in countries are often shaped with regards to their economic impact and whether they "are good for the economy" is a decisive factor for their acceptance. Countries which embraced policies that enable free markets have for the most part in the past hundred years created a higher standard of living for their population than those who didn't.

The importance of liberal market regulations has become self-evident for most legislators. The same is probably not yet the case when it comes to the regulation of new technologies. We are quickly approaching the age of Technological Primacy. The governing mechanisms will shift from the ownership of the means of production to the ownership of key technologies. Technology has become such an important part of our lives that any change to it - whether it gets banned, breaks down or improves - has a big impact on our everyday life. The welfare of societies depends less and less on what's economically viable and more on what's technologically possible. Efficient market regulations have allowed modern economies to run close to full capacity, therefore further increases in welfare are more and more dependent on technological improvements. Technology itself has become a key governing mechanism of societies - where people without access to the latest technology experience a very quick reduction of their standard of living compared to those who do.

And just like the emergence of the primacy of economics lead to fierce resistance in some parts of the population, the primacy of technology will do the same. Groups will seek the banning of certain technological advances or only allow the introduction of a new technology when it's available to everybody. In any case, the regulation of new technologies has to be at the center of attention for all legislators. Just as economic policies in the 20th century were decisive for the well-being of societies, so will policies focused on technology be decisive for the well-being and progress of societies in the 21st century.

// update 06/03/2018

swiss telecom companies unsuccessfuly tried to raise the threshold limits for electromagnetic radiation so they could roll out 5G networks in switzerland. the small chamber of the swiss parliament rejected the proposal mostly due to health related concerns. these concerns are unfounded, show technological illiteracy in the Swiss parliament, technological skepticism and lack of appreciation of basic scientific facts when it comes to electromagnetic radiation (the threshold values would have still been below international safety limits). these are exactly the kind of legislative missteps that should be prevented. Source (ger):

// update 6/05/2020

Great article by Rasmus Rothe regarding the lackluster whitepaper by the EU commission regarding AI development funding and regulation: