Just because something can be built, doesn’t mean it should be built.
Gross ideas mean moral tension. Work on something gross, and you might create something you shouldn’t.
But here’s the thing: moral tension means people feel something. And, awkwardly, this resolves one of the hardest problems startups face.
Finding moral tension means you’ve found an idea people care about. At the very least, you’ll get a reaction. And even a bad reaction is promising — most startups die because nobody cares at all.
So if you’re willing to risk doing something you shouldn’t, you have a head start. Moral dilemmas are open secrets about what might be popular in the future if morality changes.
And morality does change.
Racial and gender equality, slavery and abolition, LGBT rights. Contraceptives, online dating, abortion. Genetic modification, battery farming, fake meat. Immunisation, cloning, stem cell therapy. Marijuana, prohibition, vaping. Pornography, sex toys, sex work. Weapons, data privacy, assisted suicide.
At some point, to some people, each of these ideas seemed at least gross and at most immoral. A few still might.
Right or wrong, the opportunity is there. Moral tension guarantees people will care. It is the precondition and consequence of many big businesses.
I’m not suggesting it’s good to be immoral. I’m suggesting money gets made advancing both sides of a debate.
Technology is separating reality from experience, our actions from intent from consequences. And that means there are a lot more debates coming.
I can’t predict the future, but I do know it’s going to be gross.