Rejecting New Technology: A Centuries-Old Tradition

According to Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies by Harvard University professor Calestous Juma, there are eight major reasons why society rejects new technologies—even technologies like coffee and refrigeration. Writing for The Washington Post, Steven Overly explores these eight reasons, among which there are several important lessons for regulators and innovators.

For Juma, resistance to new technologies comes from, among other factors, those with competing commercial interests, those who identify with existing products, those who fear changes to their way of life, and those who might lose power as a result of change.

Additionally, because innovation is often exponential and not linear, governments often fail to appreciate rapid technological advancements and therefore fail to regulate them appropriately. Overly references Uber as an example of government failing to adequately prepare for the rapid expansion and demand for ride-hailing services.

Juma’s observations, as Overly summarizes them, serve as a potent reminder of technology’s rapid transformative power on individual lives. Regulators, unable to properly prepare for future, must increasingly embrace a perspective of permissionless innovation that allows consumers to adopt or reject technology at their own pace.

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