Cloud computing, data analytics, sensors and the Internet of Things, robotics, mobile and social computing, “super-intelligent” systems and advanced cognitive systems are merely a few of the technologies that have moved from the realm of being an interesting idea into the main stream. Just over the horizon are not only improvements to each of these technologies but also virtual/augmented reality systems, autonomous vehicles, private drones, 3D printing, quantum computing, gesture control systems and wearable computing, among others that promise to change our daily routines in a myriad of ways.
High tech companies like to tout the many benefits of these technologies — for example, it is believed that moving to autonomous vehicles will not only increase safety but create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Simultaneously, there is a rising disquiet being voiced about the risks — social, economic, political, technical and personal — these technologies may bring as well. While autonomous vehicles may create new jobs, will the number be greater than the jobs they eliminate?
There are also concerns over increasing intrusions into personal privacy that ever-increasing interconnected technologies may pose. We see this with surveillance threats on the part of the government, commercial companies gaining access to and collecting and selling personal data, not to mention the growth in malevolent hacking of all things digital. And as far as the progress in the realm of super-intelligent systems is concerned, even Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have recently warned about the need to think very carefully about the potential downsides future increases in AI capability may create for society.
One can argue that new technology has always been disruptive to society’s status quo. Historically, for every lost job due to the introduction of technology, a greater number of new jobs have been created in their place by that same technology. Further, technological innovations, especially those involving automation, have materially increased the quality of the human condition. Does anyone really want to go back to the way things were, say even ten years ago let alone one hundred? In addition, it is easy to be skeptical of the concerns about whether interconnected technology poses ethical concerns seem overblown given how willing people are to post their most intimate activities on social sites.
The increasing automation of society leads to some interesting questions. For example, are those who raise alarms about the risks merely “neo-Luddites” who are trying to stand in the way of human progress or are those pushing technology guilty of hubris for ignoring their possible harmful, unintended consequences?
Are there steps technology companies or those who use technology should be taking to offset what appears to be a rising backlash against automation? How can we take advantage of the staggering power of technology to improve our quality of life while also keeping our humanity intact, for example? How can the public’s perception of technology be changed in a positive way?
An upcoming issue of Cutter IT Journal is seeking articles on the likelihood and possible implications of a technology backlash — ethical, societal, and economic — and what companies might do to stem the tide of the negative, unintended consequences of technology introduction that might spark such a backlash.
Possible topics of discussion may include, but are not limited, to the following:
- Is the current period of technology innovation unique in its potential to create a societal backlash? If so, what might trigger a wide-spread backlash and what might it look like?
- What can companies do to avoid the backlash associated with using or developing new technologies? Should they be concerned at all?
- With the increase in the use of personal devices at work, how can controls/monitoring/procedures be implemented within reason to minimize risk of corporate data loss? Should traditional notions of privacy be considered quaint?
- How can our workforce be sustained when new technologies threaten jobs? Retraining?
- What reasonable restrictions on social media usage can employers impose on their employees, and should employers be allowed access to their employers’ private social media postings?
- How can technology be leveraged to provide more opportunities/value to consumers who perceive it as a threat to their privacy?
- How can technology be used for job creation rather than elimination?
- Should the use of super-intelligent systems be restricted?
- How can technology be leveraged to change its public perception from negative to positive? For example, should it be used to ease economic inequality?
ARTICLE IDEA DEADLINE: MAY 18, 2015
Please respond to rcharette[at]itabhi[dot]com, with a copy to cgenerali[at]cutter[dot]com no later than May 18, 2015 and include an extended abstract and a short article outline showing major discussion points.
ACCEPTED ARTICLES DUE: JUNE 26, 2015
Most Cutter IT Journal articles are approximately 2,500-3,000 words long, plus whatever graphics are appropriate. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact CITJ's Group Publisher, Christine Generali at cgenerali[at]cutter[dot]com. Editorial guidelines are available online.