I wouldn’t be the first to point out that technology is the fascination of our generation. Perhaps more so than the space race, industrial revolution and even The Renaissance (steady on!) it is redefining how we dream, live and create.
As a user with some privilege in a prosperous country it’s very easy to drink the Kool-Aid and enjoy the best of what Shanghai, Shenzhen and Silicon Valley send my way. It’s uncomfortably easy to look the other way or play it stupid when opting in to products and services that in a simple sense make my life a little better. When time and space allow it I’ll kick up a fuss about how we seem to be giving away (privacy, cost to planet, rights of workers) more than we gain but to what effect?
As a business owner I can help others take advantage of the opportunities changing conditions and innovation afford us. At Pretty Neat we aim to be on the right side of history when it comes to this.
But it’s not that much to offer.
Over the past decade the Internet and it’s relationship with technology has changed a great deal.
We travel less visiting far fewer sites and sources for our information and education.
We buy our devices from far fewer sources.
Governments collaborate on much larger scales to regulate and cultivate the markets that deliver our technology.
We are under much closer scrutiny on pretty much all fronts.
But in spite of this, extraordinary technology is in development in many places that will do more to change how we live in the next 25 years than in the last 200. And for the better I hope.
“AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on. It is more profound than, I dunno, electricity or fire,” – Google CEO, Sundar Pichai
While radical efficiencies and profits might be nice if you listen to Reid Hoffman & co the ability to move people away from tasks we need not do to others we enjoy is brilliant for almost all of us (sorry surgeons and social workers). With the support of some social innovation like universal basic income, technological changes in the workplace can be met with hope and a constructive re-tooling of our 9-5.
Machine learning is not just creating a future where we do crosswords as we commute in the car but saving lives through predicting our deaths on admission to hospital. Similar models are being used to prevent suicide.
Scanning ahead it’s hard to fathom the limits of the changes we face but it’s a little easier to understand how this change in our relationship with tech might work against us.
We are no longer the smartest kids in class. Where computers are teaching themselves how the world is and might be, and we don’t even know what they are learning it’s hard to feel we have any control over the outcome.
We can’t all keep up. An obvious example is the uneven distribution of fortune to those best placed to take advantage of technological change. I feel we can do more to encourage advancement and help others to benefit from it
Government is hard pressed catching up, let alone setting a roadmap for what we all want. There is a slowly spinning airport luggage conveyor of issues to resolve that few are reluctant to claim and handle.
It’s clear that the role of organisations like Electronic Frontiers Australia and Digital Rights Watch is more important than ever.
In Victoria this month and Australia early next year we will have a chance to be heard on the issues around technology and work, around whether we are building a future where technology can be applied with empathy, compassion and intelligence that contains humour and generosity – not just traits that make financial sense.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is looking at this right now.
Your opinions and ideas are welcome. Hell, make some demands.
It’s all our futures.
NB: I’ll report back in after a chat with with The Australian Human Rights Commission on 14th November at 7pm on Byte Into it on Triple R FM