Technology and Change: AI, IoT, and The Future of Tech

Technology is changing us. Sometimes this is good, for example when minority voices are amplified, or when news is more easily available to those who would not have access otherwise.

Other times, though, it is bad. When content is algorithmically filtered to serve us what we want to see, rather than what we should see, the quality of discourse suffers. When we are constantly connected, but more isolated than ever, the quality of relationships suffers. When we can communicate with anyone, anywhere, but nobody seems to have the time to sit and listen, the quality of human connection suffers.

Technological change is always accelerating. It used to be that technology changed slowly, and we adapted. Now, it changes so quickly that we rarely have time to adapt, and we face new challenges as a result. The internet is a good example. It has enabled wonderful new opportunities for communication, but it has also enabled new ways to spread misinformation. We must figure out how to work with technology rather than being forced to work around it.

Technology is improving. We are more able to see things from others’ perspectives. More able to remain connected. More able to express ourselves. More able to do our jobs from anywhere. We must figure out how to make the most of these new opportunities and how to mitigate the challenges they bring.

Artificial Intelligence, Data, and Freedom of Choice

I’ve written about this extensively, so I won’t dive too deeply into it here. Suffice to say, I believe that artificial intelligence will be a vital part of our future and that it will both enable and threaten our freedom. It will enable us to make better decisions, faster. It will threaten our freedom by giving others the power to make decisions for us. We must be cognizant of this as we design and develop technology.

Why do we talk so much about data? Because data is powerful. It is data that informs our decisions, and it is data that can be abused. Data is raw information, and while it can be valuable, it can also be misused. We must be aware of the data that we gather, and how it can be used.

We live in a world of connected information. With our phones, we can access information wherever we are. Emerging IoT platforms bring this convenience to another level. IoT (the Internet of Things) is particularly interesting because it has the potential to enrich our lives in ways that are only beginning to be explored. It is important, therefore, that we consider data privacy in the conversation early.

With all of this data, we have never been in a better place to make decisions. We can make better decisions because we have more information. Let’s use it wisely.

Technology and Equity

Technology is a tool. As such, it can be used for good or for ill. In no way is this more true than the topic of equity. Technology has been used to expand opportunities for those who have historically lacked access to them. However, it has also been used to restrict access to those who already have opportunities. For example, we have seen many efforts to curb the spread of fake news, but at what cost? Because the fake news problem has been particularly bad in the United States, we have seen many efforts to curb the spread of fake news from abroad. These efforts, while well-intentioned, have had the unfortunate side effect of preventing the spread of information that is not fake, but is nonetheless controversial.

We must also examine the effects of technology on the disabled. Technology has enabled inclusion in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago. However, at the same time, we must consider how technology has been abused in these same communities. It is important that we find ways to design technology to be more inclusive.

Diversity is important. If we learned nothing else this year, we should all remember that. We must remember that technology can be used as a tool to broaden diversity, but also as a tool to enforce homogeneity. We must be aware of how our designs and decisions will impact those who have historically been left out of the conversation.

Technology and the Future

Our technology will continue to develop and change. We should look to the future, and be aware of how our decisions will impact it.

The technology of our future will continue to be shaped by both what we know and what we don’t know. What we know is that technology will continue to change. What we don’t know is how it will change. We can’t predict the future. We can only try to influence it.

As we design and develop our technology, we need to be aware of how it will be used. We may be designing technology for one purpose, but it may be used for something else entirely. We need to be aware of the unintended consequences of our actions.

Technology will be a force for good and for evil. It is our job to ensure that it is more good than evil.

As we design our technology, we need to ensure that it is inclusive. We need to ensure that it is accessible. We need to make sure that it is safe. We need to ensure that it is ethical. We need to be aware of how our decisions will impact those who are already at a disadvantage. We need to ensure that our decisions are for the good of our users. We need to ensure that we are not recklessly risking the long-term viability of our technology.

Technology has the potential to enable the greatest change the world has ever seen. Let’s make sure the change benefits everyone.