I recently had the opportunity to participate in a “Thinking Weekend” and it was transformative.
It was a day and a half with a group of 30 participants. The theme was an inquiry into ethics in tech. We considered the topic through different lenses: corporate, education, arts, governance (local), an outside perspective to American approach, individual and operative. For each lens there was an hour and a half interview with a moderator and a speaker and then time for Q&A and reflections. We were asked to keep the names of the speakers and attendees private to encourage candid conversations, but here are few highlights from our discussions.
The Impact of Technology
At the core of every conversation was the question of who benefits from technology, what are the positive and negative impacts, what are the tradeoffs and more importantly, who decides what is acceptable. For example, how should we consider China’s rating of every citizen through the social credit system? In a country with a centralized planning system that considers the benefits for the group and the government rather than the individuals, this approach to technology may be acceptable while it may seem shocking in the rest of the world (even if we may be heading this way). All the speakers addressed the importance of consciousness and being aware of how technology may impact others, particularly those who are different from ourselves. The impact of technology on communities (could be on a city, an age group or a minorities) was also highlighted. Technologies can create communities as well as isolate communities. For example, people working in Silicon Valley can live in a specific city and yet have very little interaction with their local community as most of their needs are provided on site at work (i.e. child care, sports, services, food…).
Lack of Women in Technology
Also the lack of women in technology (as well as in leadership) has a fundamental impact on the types and implications of the new technology we are creating and the stories that are created through social media, art and other narratives.
Technology Changing the Way We Live
Finally when looking into the future, we have to start thinking about how AI may fundamentally disrupt our lives. For instance, in a culture where identities are so connected to our work, who will we be and how may we live if our jobs do not exist anymore?
While none of us had the answers, just having the time to think deeply about the topic, be involved in constructive discussions with a diversified group, was a welcome break from the 280 character tweets and 30-second sound bite videos of information we too often use as a base for discussion and judgment. In a complex world where technology is replacing many of our human actions, we need to fully embrace our humanity and take the time for deep conversations.
What can you do today to start a conversation?