Thanks to a sceptical press – and a subsequent FDA investigation – the technology was found to be a total sham, but only after investors had poured millions into the start-up and made Holmes one of the world’s youngest self-made billionaires.
The crypto industry is another plain example of what happens when hype and bluster overtake real utility.
Bitcoin alone is estimated to consume more energy per year than many countries – all for the sake of a made-up currency – and the unravelling of disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried has laid bare an industry full of hucksters and empty promises.
Many crypto start-ups, like much of Silicon Valley, merely offer products in search of a solution.
We’ve likely left it too late for effective regulation of social media and its opaque algorithms. For years, platforms like Facebook have hoovered up massive amounts of personal data – in some cases without consent – while keeping users essentially addicted, a process that some have likened to nicotine or drug addiction.
Social media has divided us, and often brought out the worst in us, and regulators are more than a decade behind in their feeble attempts to rein it in.
The Silicon Valley way of building first and asking questions later has brought with it undeniable technical progress, but also wreaked significant societal damage.
Questions around how we should best regulate artificial intelligence, in Australia and globally, are fair questions that deserve thorough examination. We’re already beginning to feel the wide-reaching consequences of AI’s rise, including challenges around data privacy, job displacement and in-built bias.
To merely dismiss those concerns as the enemy of progress, as Andreessen does in his manifesto, is irresponsible and ultimately dangerous.
Thankfully, Australia’s entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have largely stayed away from the excesses and hyperbole perpetrated by their counterparts in the US.
We need to handle innovations like AI with thoughtful regulations and guardrails – both from governments and the technology industry itself – to avoid the myriad mistakes Silicon Valley has already made.
David Swan is Technology Editor for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
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