Is Technology Moving Too Fast?

Self-accelerating technologies--computers that make faster computers, for example--may have a destabilizing effect on society

The newest technologies--computers, genetic engineering and the emerging field of nanotech--differ from the technologies that preceded them in a fundamental way. The telephone, the automobile, television and jet air travel accelerated for a while, transforming society along the way, but then settled into a manageable rate of change. Each was eventually rewarded more for staying the same than for radically transforming itself--a stable, predictable, reliable condition known as "lock-in."

Computers, biotechnology and nanotech don't work that way. They are self-accelerating; that is, the products of their own processes enable them to develop ever more rapidly. New computer chips are immediately...

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