Robert Anton Wilson popularized the words neophiles and neophobes to describe people who enjoy and can adapt to rapid changes and those who fear and oppose change respectively. Whenever neophiles create and adopt a technological advancement neophobes step in to try and retard it. Strong cryptography allows individuals to securely communicate between one another. Neophobes, who are fearful by nature, cannot accept the idea of people having conversations that cannot be spied on. Advancements in automation require less human labor to produce more goods and services. Neophobes fear automation because they cannot conceive of a world where laborers don’t have to work as much or can find meaningful employment after being displaced by machines. Genetically modified crops can dramatically increase our species food production and feed more people with less resource expenditure. Neophobes want to halt production of genetically modified crops because they fear tampering with nature will have frightening and currently unrealized consequences.
The biggest difference between neophiles and neophobes is the former understands risks are inherent in change and accepts those risks while the latter fears change because it involves unknown risks.
Would you enjoy living a much shorter and hard life as a hunter gatherer in a cave? Because that’s what we’d all being doing if everybody listened to the neophobes. Advancement is scary because we don’t know how they will change the world. But advancement is far less scary than stagnation. This is why I don’t give any weight to arguments against technological advancement.
Are there risks in widespread availability to strong cryptography? Yes. Are there risks in allowing machines to do more and more of our labor? Yes. Are there risks in creating and cultivating genetically modified crops? Again, yes. However there are risks in enabling widespread surveillance, relying on manual labor, and refusing to advance agriculture. Those risks are powerful police states, injuries and deaths on jobs, and starvation.
Since the industrial revolution we’ve enjoyed a world where neophilia has surpassed neophobia. Even though we’re enjoying a standard of living unheard of only a generation ago the neophobes are still pounding their drums and trying to scare people into returning to the caves. Do you want to live in a world where we’re relegated to subsistence agriculture or one where robots produce more food than our species can possibly consume? If you, like me, desire the latter then you should work to ensure technological advancement isn’t hindered by neophobes. That means not supporting any efforts to stop the advancement of technology. Don’t support attempts to control the exportation of strong cryptography. Don’t support attempts to stop the adoption of automation. Don’t support prohibitions against genetically modified crops. Try to help technological advancements to flourish so more people can enjoy their benefits. Refute the neophobic fear mongering by pointing out how not adopting new technologies is also risky and how the fears of neophobia have seldom, if ever, been realized. Don’t help those who would return us to the caves.