Technology with­out ethics is a huge threat to humanity

The Mercury News - - Opinion - By Ian I. Mitroff Dr. Ian I. Mitroff of Oak­land is an au­thor and aca­demic widely re­garded as the founder of the dis­ci­pline of cri­sis man­age­ment. He is pres­i­dent and founder of Mitroff Cri­sis Man­age­ment. He wrote this for The Mer­cury News.

Technology, which has made our lives in­com­pa­ra­bly bet­ter, is now one of the great­est threats fac­ing hu­mankind.

All of the mar­velous gad­gets we’ve in­vented are not only thor­oughly rein­vent­ing us, but they are do­ing it in ways that give us no idea of their full im­pacts. In short, we are un­der­go­ing a trans­for­ma­tion/rev­o­lu­tion that af­fects ev­ery as­pect of our be­ing — our brains, bod­ies, in­sti­tu­tions, the en­tire world.

It’s noth­ing less than The Rev­o­lu­tion of Ev­ery­thing.

For in­stance, MIT en­gi­neers have re­cently de­vel­oped nat­u­rally con­duc­tive gold leaf that can be placed di­rectly on our skins so that we can thereby com­mu­ni­cate seam­lessly with all of our won­der­ful de­vices. Our bod­ies become the screens by which we com­mu­ni­cate, if that’s what we truly do any longer.

It’s not enough that we al­ready are overly at­tached — worse still, ad­dicted — to an over­whelm­ing panoply of de­vices. No, our en­tire bod­ies will lit­er­ally be “on” all the time. Given the in­tense cou­pling be­tween hu­mans and ma­chines, if we can even dis­tin­guish be­tween them any longer, we truly have become cy­borgs.

Most dis­turb­ing is the un­der­ly­ing mind­set that is re­spon­si­ble for the to­tal trans­for­ma­tion/rev­o­lu­tion that is un­like any­thing we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. I call it The Tech­no­log­i­cal Mind­set. At its root is the core be­lief that technology is the so­lu­tion to all our problems, in­clud­ing those caused by technology it­self.

Even more trou­bling is the be­lief that the sooner hu­mans are re­placed by ro­bots, the bet­ter ev­ery­thing will be. Hu­mans are thus de­val­ued as never be­fore.

Be­cause I’m so crit­i­cal, I need to make per­fectly clear that as some­one with a PhD in en­gi­neer­ing sci­ence, I am not in­stinc­tively hos­tile to technology. I am cer­tainly not call­ing for its elim­i­na­tion.

The idea that our lives would some­how be bet­ter if we got rid of all technology is not only pre­pos­ter­ous but com­pletely non­sen­si­cal.

In­stead, be­fore new tech­nolo­gies are un­leashed on the world, I’m call­ing for far greater as­sess­ments of their so­cial im­pacts.

I’m also call­ing for sys­temic au­dits. It is not enough to au­dit each technology as if it were in­de­pen­dent of the oth­ers. Tech­nolo­gies are highly in­ter­ac­tive and in­ter­de­pen­dent. As a re­sult, they must be eval­u­ated in­ter­de­pen­dently as a whole.

Be­fore any new technology is un­leashed, a se­ri­ous au­dit of its so­cial im­pacts, both neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive, needs to be con­ducted by pan­els made up of tech­nol­o­gists, par­ents, so­cial sci­en­tists, teach­ers, chil­dren and oth­ers.

This is the prime ethic to which all tech­nolo­gies need to be sub­ject. A technology should be adopted if and only if it con­tin­ues to pass the most se­vere so­cial im­pact au­dits we can muster. In other words, the bur­den is squarely on tech­nol­o­gists to jus­tify their cre­ations and to en­sure that the neg­a­tive im­pacts are given se­ri­ous thought and are un­der con­trol.

The as­ser­tion is of­ten made that hu­mans will adapt to technology be­cause they al­ways have. But why should it be the case that hu­mans should al­ways be the ones to adapt, es­pe­cially in cases where technology leads to harm or where large num­bers of peo­ple are dis­placed?

I can­not em­pha­size enough that be­fore any new technology is un­leashed, it must be sub­ject to the most rig­or­ous au­dits of its hu­man and so­cial im­pacts, both neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive. And, it must con­tinue to pass on-go­ing au­dits as it im­pacts become clearer.

The Eth­i­cal Man­age­ment of Technology is more im­por­tant and im­per­a­tive than ever.

This is the prime ethic to which all tech­nolo­gies need to be sub­ject. A technology should be adopted if and only if it con­tin­ues to pass the most se­vere so­cial im­pact au­dits we can muster. In other words, the bur­den is squarely on tech­nol­o­gists to jus­tify their cre­ations and to en­sure that the neg­a­tive im­pacts are given se­ri­ous thought and are un­der con­trol.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.