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Safe to Fail Probes

I see a few issues with this approach:

  • The safe to fail probe approach implies that you actually have control of enough resources to do more than one single experiment. This may be true for medium or big formal organizations, but outside of that context, this strategy may be not applicable directly.
  • It’s quite optimistic in the sense that it is thought that restrictions to the whole process of an a priori “wild” experimentation process can be enforced.

Other than that, it seems like a very reasonable approach to take. If I was in an influential position in a big company, I would try to apply this approach to significant problems.

It depends on the space you’re experimenting in. For example if you’re talking about cryptocurrency then the amount of resources available are increasing while the requirements to create a new cryptocurrency are decreasing.

For example Bitcoin was open source, so anyone could fork and copy it. The first altcoin fork was Litecoin. Litecoin was basically just Bitcoin but designed to appeal to GPU miners and to people who missed the Bitcoin train. It wasn’t the most innovative but it required minimal development time because it wasn’t the most innovative. From there there was Peercoin which introduced something innovative in Proof of Stake.

You’re right that for certain things the cost of an experiment prohibit a single individual from launching multiple experiments. At the same time if an individual is low on resources they will have to find a niche for themselves which would be low cost highly rewarding (high impact) experiments.

Crowdfunding could help to solve the resource problem but this depends on making it legally easy and to encourage it. Maybe if people could get tax deductions or if there were prizes for people who do experiments it could work.

So on the political policy side you can encourage Safe to Fail Probes through legislation which reduces the risks for people who want to experiment. At the same time we have to encourage experimentation in areas where it’s a new frontier which means we have to ease up on the legal and tax risks to experimenters in new spaces.

The Internet and WWW took off because experimentation was encouraged and tax risk reduced. Imagine if you had to pay Internet taxes from the moment Mosaic released the first mainstream browser? Imagine if VOIP required developers and users to pay long distance fees? That is what we are dealing with right now with over regulation discouraging experimentation.

When people have to risk fines or jail to do probes into new spaces then the only people who will probe will be people who don’t have anything to lose or who can afford to lose personally.

I pretty much agree with you on this political reasoning. The question is what can be actually done about it. Political lobbying can of course be done, but it’s expensive in itself.

Also, you could try to encourage people to do more “safe to fail probes”. It probably be better for the world at large, because it would greatly increase innovation. But what would be incentive for the experimenters to behave in alignment with that safe to fail probe framework? After all, it’s not the primary goal of experimenters to optimize societal innovation.

Why do you think people do what they do? What is the primary goal of experimenters?

Stated that way, these questions are too general. There are many potential motives.