Innovating Like an Optimist, Preparing Like a Pessimist: Ethical Speculation and the Legal Imagination

Tags: Artificial Intelligence / Tech Policy / Technology Policy

In this essay, I discuss the problem of unanticipated consequences in the design and regulation of emerging technology, pointing to the difficulty of foresight as an underlying cause. Next, I draw a line between the issue-spotting capabilities of “thinking like a lawyer” and cultivating foresight as a skill. Finally, I describe my own experiences with using science fiction and creative speculation in teaching ethics and policy, and argue for the usefulness of creative speculation as a tool for those who are designing, deploying, and regulating technology. I sometimes describe myself, in the context of technology, as an optimist who believes it is important to think like a pessimist. I believe that such tools can help us create the future that we want rather than the one that we fear.

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