66. Premature investments

If a large quantity of funds and efforts are put towards a project prematurely, such as electric cars or Artificial Intelligence, and it does not bear fruit, it can put a field on ice for a matter of decades, even after it becomes economically feasible. If people were informed in 1900 that nuclear weapons would be developed in 1941, and would threaten the safety of the world by the 1950s, they would likely spend tens or hundreds of millions building bomb shelters, trying to develop quick flying machines, anti-aircraft batteries, or aerospace technology to ameliorate the anticipated strategic risk. In all likelihood, this would cause expenditure fatigue, so that by the time nuclear weapons were actually developed, there would be a reluctance to invest in dealing with them that there would not have otherwise been.

Humans, and humanity, do not have the greatest attention span or planning capability, even when the world hangs in the balance. We need quick results and gratification to move forward on projects. According to some recently released information, in the 80s, the USSR got wind of an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, built by the United States, and spent a great deal of money and military research trying to come up with their own version, to no avail48. As a result of that program, by the time drones actually became cheaper and reliable, in the 00s, Russian military leaders were already exhausted with the idea, and lagged behind in their development accordingly. Timing can make a crucial psychological and economic difference which makes the difference between success and failure for a given technology or safeguard.