In this video, learn about a filter you can use to assess whether a technology should be pursued or not.
- If you look at the US elections, look at what happened in the United Kingdom, look at what happened in Italy. You look at what's happening world wide. You're seeing extreme interests on the left and the right all now saying the same things, they're all attacking the establishment because of the widening gap between the rich and the poor, between the haves and have nots. The fact is that we are creating inequity. Technology's accelerating them. We may think that as technologists, we're cut off from this, the world is widening our code, we're supporting our systems and so on. No, the technology we're creating is widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
It is creating inequity and it is what is creating upheaval worldwide. So, this is the first thing that you have to consider, does my technology provide the ability to benefit everyone equally? If you're just going to be making the rich richer, as if you are doing high-frequency trading, you're going to make your company have a strategic advantage and let them siphon off money from the economic system, you know that you're doing something wrong over there. If you're going to be developing a medical device that can be available to billions of people and impact them positively, you know you're doing good over there.
So the greatest choice we have to make, is to make sure the technology we're creating has the ability to benefit everyone equally and uplift mankind, because if we don't, we're going to have political upheaval, we're going to have turmoil, we're all going to pay for it. And then the risks verses the rewards. The example that I often use is about genomic editing, and is it worth modifying the human germ line to then remove debilitating disease? Most people will agree that if we can rid humanity of debilitating diseases, remove cancers, remove Alzheimer's disease, remove these diseases that have held humanity back, it's a good thing for us.
So, the risks may be worth the rewards. But then when you start looking at many other technologies, it becomes a gray line. Is it worth having drones flying overhead, that photograph everything we're doing, just to deliver our morning latte to us? I don't know, I mean, I'd like to get my morning latte, I don't care, frankly if someone's taking photographs of my backyard. But if I happen to be in the shower and a drone flies by, and now broadcasts what it saw on the internet, I'm going to be very embarrassed over here. (laughing) The point is that you have to keep being aware of whether the risks outweigh the rewards or not.
And then the question is, do technologies increase autonomy or dependence? Self-driving cars would make us dependent on them, but on the other hand, it'll also provide autonomy to people who are now trapped in their houses, who can't get from Point A to Point B. If you look at the impact of self-driving cars at the micro-scale, it makes us autonomous, it doesn't make us dependents, because we already are dependent on our cars. We live in suburbs and we couldn't get from Point A to Point B without our cars, and without petroleum. So, the fact is that we have to keep thinking about, is it worth...
Is it like a drug, is it like a recreational drug? Or is it a drug which makes us dependent on it? We don't want to be dependent on anything. So, you have to keep that in mind. Why these three questions? Frankly, there are many other questions, but I tried to focus on the things which matter the most, that really could cause the greatest upheaval, that could provide the most benefit and the most disadvantage. There's so much to consider here. There are probably a hundred other questions you should be asking about every technology, but I tried to come up with the simplest ones, the ones which apply to the most technologies, and that we can all relate to.
But I encourage you to think beyond that, challenge me on that. Why not have these extra questions? You're welcome to ask your own questions in addition to what I said, and now, make sure that your technology is being used in the best possible way.
Vivek Wadhwa offers an approach to help you make intentional choices about the technology you develop and the options you use when faced with uncertainty. He explains how to assess your efforts and deliver outcomes that are aligned with your values and the values of your company. Vivek goes beyond the usual discussion of "is this profitable" to "is this something we should do". Discover how to consider the implications of your actions and choices, weigh your options, and ultimately make more informed and mindful decisions.
- Asking tough questions
- Weighing risks and rewards
- Considering who benefits
- Choosing the right technology
- Determining how to do what is right