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Futurist: Where Should We Apply Ethics?

I am a long-time Futurist, and technologist. In my career, I have spanned the birth of personal computers, to the rise of Cloud Computing.

Should information and walking off a cliff ever be the same?

Should information and walking off a cliff ever be the same?

It is always easier to blame someone else.

I know as a technologist, I often look to technology to solve problems around me. But a piece of me also knows that there is more to technology than simply the device itself. A component integral within technology is the reality the technology means to help the user. I wrote an article about wearable medical devices a few weeks ago, maybe a couple 6to7 months ago. Technology can prolong human life. I also wrote an article about the rise of scams, leveraging technology. Sadly that is a demonstration of the downside of technology. The good side is the rise of devices and tools designed to help humanity. The downside is the reality of people using technology to injure, steal and hurt other humans. As we move through this age of digital transformation, it's wise to stop for a moment and realize there is more. The things that surround the use of technology in our world remain nascent, if not prepubescent. The reality of the effects we need to use the technology we've developed hasn't yet come to fruition.

On the other side of digital transformation lies the great machine-developed intelligence. An Intelligence. Or Artificial Intelligence that will empower information. That will give rise to the information age. The reality is that lies in the future. We do not see the future yet, for it is not yet here. And so, we struggle with the reality of digital transformation and the technologies we've created. That reminds me of something my very first boss in IT, many years ago, used always to say, "we're not going to do technology for technology's sake." It seemed, at the time, a harsh reality. But it was the mantra of someone who knew that technology had much growing up to do. That we, as species humanity, needed to understand what we were building.

I will not say that recently I had an epiphany. I've always know technology was a tool. I started this article with a discussion briefly of medical technology that saves people's lives. I also included technology used to generate scams and hurt people. My epiphany is that no technology comes with a built-in ethics system. Not mind you that there are ethics in the world outside of technology today, I watch the growing rate of handgun murders, and school shootings, and mass shootings in every form, and I wonder. My father always told me to lock the gate and lock the door of the house we had. He would say that it may not keep someone with ill intent out, but it keeps honest people honest.

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My father was a professor, but most of his early academic work was before the rise of technology that changed his profession. By training, dad was studying biology. The study of biology has evolved radically because of the technology available to those who study biology now. We can sequence the genome of a plant, animal, and human. You can send DNA to a company and find long-lost relatives. You can use technology to reconnect if you haven't spoken in years. He was logging in the social media at some level. The rise of the cell phone camera allows for many more pictures produced. Where once hundreds of pictures were available, now millions are available. When events occur, the police can ask users to give them the photos they took. The police can quickly piece together what happened using the pictures—stitching the pictures together to create a three-dimensional view of an event. Is there an ethical question to be asked there?

Would you post differently, if you knew someone was watching what you posted and adding a disclaimer when you were done?

Would you post differently, if you knew someone was watching what you posted and adding a disclaimer when you were done?

The internet veracity engine!

For ethics gives us the why. Yes, we piece together the events after a mass shooting. It was determining why the person did what they did. But that is always after the fact. I will not be proposing in this piece that the presence of ethics would solve the problem. Some forsake ethics and strive to do what they believe to be best for themselves in all cases. To a degree, we blame technology for that; some even fear technology because of that reality. But the goal of technology is to make life better. In seeking that reality, the improvement of human life, it is no wonder that technology continues to evolve. Again I return to the medical devices that keep people alive longer. I hear the clarion call for ethics in society in general now. We must control technology, but it isn't technology that requires ethics. A word processor has no inherent ethics. So someone is using a word processor to create spread information that isn't fact. That isn't the technology, the word processor; that is the human being. In that scenario, to borrow from the old joke, we need ethics to tighten the loose nut behind the keyboard.

It is my sincere hope that ethics do become more and more prevalent in our society. Then we don't have to lock the gates to keep honest people honest. The human's ethics will keep them from entering the unlocked area. The application of technology to the world around us is the ability to make human life better/ That is the driving value of technology. But living within the confines of a code of ethics, that's the value of humanity. Yes, we can limit the technology giants; we can limit technology in the world around us. We can, for a time, slow the explosion of technology. But that won't change the reality; of our world. The next time you consider the reality of limiting technology giants, consider the application of ethics. Would the situation be improved if the human race lived within agreed-upon ethics across all of humanity?

I have in the past spoken of a toolset I call the Internet veracity engine. That engine would apply facts and truth to everything posted on the internet. Perhaps to the extreme of marking on the bottom of the screen when a commentator speaks. A scrolling bar that will say this is the opinion of the person and may not be fact. So that you know that the information you see is validated and verified, I wrote an article about information brokers. They exist today in some professional places where you can go and request information and get information from verified and validated sources. As we continue through this age of digital transformation, more and more sources are available, but they cost money to utilize. Anyone can start a podcast; anyone can post to a blog/ That act of posting doesn't mean the information is correct. It is that person's opinion. It may be wholly fact-based. Or it may be based on something that isn't factual. Either way, the ethical solution is always to point out that what you post is your opinion.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 DocAndersen

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