I like the recent changes concerned with contextual abstractions. I think what you are saying is right, on the other hand though, when the ease of understanding of the concept of implicits is considered together with also having to understand the patterns it is used in, the proposed changes work better. The “expressing intent vs expressing mechanism” argument works for me.
It might turn off slightly more people in the earliest stages of learning than implicits. But to me it seems like a large subset of those would end up not liking scala with implicits either, and I’m yet to see a single person from that group to change their mind. Often the issue is that scala is just not in the part of the typesystem/PL landscape that they are prepared to leave anyway.
The proposed changes might serve better than implicits those newcomers who were more likely to stay with the language just a little bit longer in the first place, and it is this latter group that has the potential to impact adoption.