The Non-GMO and Organic Certification Answer to Unfettered Artificial Intelligence
Generative AI like ChatGPT has a lot of people worried it will take their jobs and upend the economy, society and politics. They are not wrong to be concerned.
But what about the consumer response? It might be hard to stop companies from developing whatever they want, but do we have to buy the new technologies they sell to us?
We may think of new tech as becoming an inevitable part of our lives and society, in part because of the crazy success of things like television, the internet, mobile phones and new weight-loss drugs. But not every tech innovation has been successful in the consumer marketplace, even when it’s provided a tremendous boost in productivity, efficiency or human potential. Where regulators have frequently been unwilling to take a stand against big business, consumers voting with their feet have severely hampered some pretty immense tech movements.
As someone who’s spent his life studying how to shift consumer behavior, one thing is immediately clear: if you change how people buy, you impact the entire value chain. It brings economics in line with social goals, and allows regulators to act in a more decisive way.
There are plenty of examples here . Supersonic aircraft were supposed to change the way we fly. Nuclear power was going to usher in a world of endless clean energy. Plug in hybrids would have quickly “greened” most of our driving at a fraction of the cost of full electric cars. There are many more.
But the one that’s most interesting to me here is the non-GMO movement. Like its sister designation “Organic”, non-GMO is really more of an abstract concept than something rooted in hard science. To the consumer, it means that a product wasn’t made in a Wuhan-style lab where they’re one DNA edit away from ruining the world (again). An Organic designation means that the product you’re consuming doesn’t use any one of dozens of techniques or inputs that are artificial. Put another way, the non-GMO and Organic brands have become a kind of shorthand that says “clean” or “natural” in a decisive way.
In effect, they are both ways of saying “I don’t want a certain kind of technology in this product.” Many people who buy organic…