Innovation And The Duality Of Wonder And Fear

From fire to AI, innovation can always make you a bit nervous.

3 min readNov 4, 2022

The history of human innovation is one of both wonder and fear. From the earliest days, we have been driven to advance our knowledge and capabilities through new technologies, from the wheel to electricity to fire itself.

Arguably, fire was our first technology, and it is easy to see why this could be true. It is a simple innovation that has had a profound impact on human civilization. It has allowed us to keep warm, and forge metal. It also changed the way we cook and consume protein which has an impact on brain development. It has also been the cause of much destruction, as evidenced by the manifestation of both wildfires and weapons. Further, fire still represents a major source of property damage for both companies and consumers. To that end, the wonder of fire and its associated destruction often requires insurance to manage social consequences and sustain its utility in everyday life.

The fear of fire is understandable, but it is also part what makes it so powerful.

The ability to control fire gave us an advantage that allowed us to build civilizations on earth and potentially beyond. But with each innovation comes a sense of uncertainty and apprehension. As we look towards the future, full of ever-evolving technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics, we must remember that innovation will always be accompanied by the unique and inevitable emergence of both wonder and fear. And in some instances — perhaps like AI — it can scare the heck out of you. One test drive of ChatGPT and you’ll get a very real sense of this amazing platform that manifests rather accurately as both wonder and fear.

The bigger the innovation, the bigger the fear!

At its core, innovation is about pushing boundaries and seeking new ways of doing things. It is this inherent drive for progress that drives us forward as a society, but it also carries with it great risk. We must learn to balance our sense of wonder at what innovation can achieve with our fear of the unknown and the unforeseen consequences that innovation can bring. And this balancing act is tricky. It’s inherently disruptive and drives a psychopathology of reluctance and resistance. And this might be one of the greatest obstacles for digital transformation— in the home, boardroom or the hospital. Add to this the typical, fiction-based, dystopian storylines that frame futuristic innovations and fear becomes both unrealistic and insurmountable! But the simple reality is that is there, and it’s not going away.

Whether we are staring into the flames of a campfire or wrestling with the implications of emerging technologies, innovation will always be a source of both excitement and trepidation. But if we continue to embrace it, we have the power to achieve tremendous things and shape our future for the better. After all, innovation is what has brought us this far — and it is what will take us even further still.

Perhaps our greatest tool to manage both wonder and fear associated with technological innovation is well-sourced, comprehensive knowledge.




I’m a technology theorist driving innovation at humanity’s tipping point.