When innovation makes society worse off

Afterpay, fintech and startups

Innovation and entrepreneurship make society better — they force people to make services and products that are better for people.

Reading this article which sheds light on the innovative Melbourne based startup Afterpay, I’m left wondering when is innovation bad for society?

Here’s a question I’d like to see researchers tackle — Do young people using Afterpay (or other take now, pay later schemes) have an increased appetite for unhealthy debt as adults?

What’s the socio-economic status of their users? We know it’s millennials, who can’t afford to buy things that are under $500 — one could argue they have a cash flow situation that’s stopping them from buying that new pair of Air Jordan’s, and it’s not really doing any harm. But that’s unlikely.

I think it’s clever that Afterpay have avoided regulations imposed on banks by because they charge ‘fees’ and not ‘interest’. It scares me because I worry for young people when companies normalise a culture of — buy more, pay later. If innovation doesn’t make society better — is it really where we want to focus our energy?

What’s good about young people having access to credit to fund more consumerism— buying things that they can’t afford now? It sounds like a lighter version of a payday loans.

Should we really build something just because we can and it’s profitable?