Tech for good: Is it humanly impossible?
Kai Ojo, Managing Director of MediaCity-based software solutions provider Planisware UK, says that tech leaders can and should ensure innovation becomes a force for good - through the impact of their actions.
Many of you will be well aware of The Terminator and I, Robot. Both films begin with the fantasy of living alongside machines or robots harmoniously, with artificial intelligence adding value to our lives. But cracks begin to show and the human race is left fighting for survival against our own creation.
Today, some would say we’re creeping towards a similar outcome, claiming “the end is nigh” after recent news that Tesla is planning to make the ‘Tesla bot’.
But with the proper governance and a clear understanding of where we see technology within our lives, we can properly utilise tech for good, and not see it as a step towards judgement day.
Look to history
As an advocate for technology, I firmly believe that tech for good is humanly possible, and with good reason.
History has taught us a great number of things when it comes to technology and - depending on who you ask - you would get a variety of thoughts into how well it’s shaped our world today.
Let’s take something as simple as the bicycle. First invented in 1817, it was initially seen as an expensive hobby which later became a practical investment for the working individual to commute from home to work.
Without this initial investment, we would never have explored more advanced forms of transportation which help our society run today. Technology has evolved our lives to understand more about the way we live than ever before.
The emergence of the internet accelerated our understanding of technology and allowed us to communicate more broadly ideas for progression. It gave everyone who has access to the internet a seat at the table, and a way to advance previous products and services.
Technology can be whatever you want it to be, and is only ever shaped by the decisions we make when conceptualising and implementing. History has given us a strong foundation to work on so we can continue towards future innovations.
The Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) theory states that technology does not determine human action, but human action shapes technology.
Thanks to technology and previous human endeavours, we are living in the connected age, meaning today’s technology leaders should truly have a firm grip of how best we can place technology and future innovations within our lives.
Companies embracing digital transformation effectively are reaping the benefits of a collaborative workforce built with both machines and humans at the forefront, and this should be a catalyst for other companies to follow suit taking motivation from the success stories.
One example is the implementation of Microsoft Teams within the NHS. During the pandemic, by October 2020 more than 65 million messages had been sent using the platform since its rollout, while more than 13 million meetings had been held using the service - highlighting the pivotal role tech played in keeping the NHS moving during lockdown.
This is where true success can be achieved, and technology can go down in history as a force for good. Tech leaders must ensure that humans remain in the driving seat and decide carefully where technology can complement the chosen objective.
Ethics behind good technology implementation
While technology remains the faithful co-pilot to our human endeavours, we must ensure that it is far more than just a two-person job when looking to effectively implement and run.
Technology has enabled us to capture data and understand large groups, giving us a good understanding of different cultures and societies. This information can be key towards eradicating bias in future developments, and help build a society free from stereotypes, creating the kind of legacy humans can be proud of.
Ultimately, there are some key considerations for bias-free technology:
Firstly, tech should be built ethically and with safety at the forefront, by testing correctly on a group representative of the community we are using technology as a positive enabler for change for.
Secondly, implementation - this phase should focus on every step along the way, by making sure we’ve built a solid level of inclusivity into each process a user experiences.
Thirdly, access - as many around the world push for the creation of a more equal and sustainable world, we must remember that technology is one of the greatest tools for achieving these goals. We have all the tools necessary to create platforms that are engaging with people who have lived personal experience and will contribute to or help dismantle inequalities, such as the digital divide.
It is vital that we position those people within this process, to ensure that we are building diverse and inclusive environments.
We can’t hold technology accountable for the mistakes we’ve made along the way. We must remember it is merely a vehicle for our own choices.
So for those tech leaders who are looking to position technology in the history books for all the right reasons, combine the right people and keep them at the forefront of design if you want to fill the history books with new, exciting examples of technology as the pivotal ingredient for positive change in society.