Peter Diamandis interview, Wired

Private space pioneer Peter Diamandis, who founded the X Prize Foundation and cofounded Singularity University, from the Wired July issue, interviewed by Ted Greenwald:

Greenwald: Could anything derail us from this path?

Diamandis: Yes: the risk aversion we’ve developed as a society. Lawyers have ubiquitous power. If someone is always to blame, if every time something goes wrong someone has to be punished, people quickly stop taking risks. Without risks, there can’t be breakthroughs. I got this from Internet law expert Jonathan Zittrain: We’ve gone from a society where if something wasn’t prohibited then it was legal to a society where if something isn’t explicitly permitted it’s illegal. In the early days of aviation, you could do anything you wanted as long as it wasn’t illegal. Now the laws are so extensive that they say, “Show me where it’s allowed.”


  • I have had discussions/laments on this issue — that we live in society now where you are not allowed to make a mistake, and the attendant stress in operating in that environment — but think the prevalence of required insurance bears some of the responsibility as well.

    Every time something goes wrong someone is to blame and has to be punished but we aren’t going to pursue it unless there are one or two levels of insurance to pay for the loss and att0rneys’ fees incurred. And so we require levels of insurance to operate businesses and license professionals (from attorneys to notaries to hairdressers) so that if they make an error, or are just in the vicinity when anything short of an act of nature occurs, there is recompense for the injured and their attorneys whether or not there is fault.

    Attorneys yes, but insurers yes, and maybe most of all the legislature which requires insurance, coupled with the populace that is addicted to the idea of injury as lawsuit lottery.

  • “In the early days of aviation, you could do anything you wanted as long as it wasn’t illegal.”

    In the early days of aviation you didn’t have two hundred people sitting in the back assuming that the pilots and the mechanics and the air traffic controllers and the manufacturers and the engineers all knew what they were doing when they designed/built/guided/fixed/flew the thing.