Technological Disruption Is Evolving Beyond Our Control.
Technological Disruption has been on my mind for several months and yesterday it came to boiling point.
I wrote about this first in this post.
Technological Disruption: Truth and Consequences
Working backwards from yesterday we can see that unfettered disruption without testing and validation of the ramifications in the wild have major consequences:
The first death of a pedestrian by autonomous vehicle occurred yesterday in the US and while law enforcement are claiming that the car may not be responsible. Do pedestrians know how to interact with autonomous vehicles in the wild? Simple answer: NO. Especially as these vehicles fundamentally look just the same as your everyday vehicles. Where are the Asimov 3 Laws of Robotics?
Image courtesy of Microsoft Paint3D – Remix 3D library
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have made us all feel naked and vulnerable due to the massive exploitation of our collective social footprints, our digital identities being taken without knowledge and used to effectively socially engineer us all regarding the 2016 US Elections. Freemium apps mean just this, you are ceding control of your digital identity when you freely share things. Our mobile devices have evolved around this whole precept but we have strong expectations of how that data is used and the transparency behind its use.
A few months ago an acquaintance was talking about how Waze has changed their quiet street where kids can play into a dangerous bypass route that cars speed down, anytime the adjacent major roads are blocked. Speaking to Waze (Google) and their City officials hadn’t made dent in the issue at last check.
AirB&B & Uber along with other sharing economy startups have a huge issue with background checks for hosts, guests, drivers and passengers … and the list goes on, not even counting data breaches like Equifax.
The Warptest POV
So I’m asking again, how do these companies challenge themselves to explore or test the ethical ramifications of their disruptive products before and after they reach the real world? Or is the genie out of the bottle and we need to learn how to live with this modern-day Frankenstein’s Monster.
Reliance on legislators is not a solution, whilst the EU are counting down to the deadline for GDPR compliance, other countries will legislate different standards eventually but these will be based on a variety of factors, not least the ability of public servants and politicians to comprehend what technological disruption is, how it works and the impacts we can expect. We can reasonably assume that different countries laws might end up being contradictory or intentionally in conflict. Good luck with that.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes – Who watches the Watchmen?
Facebook and others will need to police themselves better but ultimately freemium apps rely on us, our data, our willingness to exist in their virtual worlds. We are their fuel and their monetization.
I am not advocating like some a mass deletion of our Facebook profiles, remember the same company also owns your much loved Instagram and ubiquitous WhatsApp. Still Facebook, Twitter and others need to make this a priority. We are talking about a fundamental comprehension that symbiosis beats mutually assured destruction.
Ironically, much of what is being suggested online to resolve these things is a symptom of the problem. Issues like this cannot be solved with a hashtag, 14 characters or a snarky meme going viral.
For years we have heard how important DRM Digital Rights Management is for music, movies etc. where is our personal DRM? Can we disrupt Technological Disruption without inhibiting innovation?
These disruptive companies need to be much more transparent about their practices but also about the ethical challenges their technologies face and how they are solving these issues.
So if you want to comment, share ideas on the subject or just chime in.. Feel free.
If you know of a company that has a Chief Ethics Officer or a team that tests the ethical impact of their products then for sure let me know.
One thing I promise, whatever you share.. I will only be using that data for good.