We aren’t living up to the promised potential of technology. Solutions are supposed to make the world a better place. They are supposed to help fix the immense challenges in a difficult world.
Instead of bringing us together to see how much we truly have in common, we are arguably more partisan and divided than ever before.
Most of us have legitimate concerns that our privacy is not being protected and our personal data is being packaged, marketed and sold to the highest bidder.
While technology is still in the early innings of recognizing the gap between what solutions in the space are capable of and what they are currently delivering, let’s challenge ourselves in 2019 and beyond to do better.
If someone asks you to design a new product feature or platform enhancement, ask how it is going to be used - what’s the big picture? And, also ask, how could this new inventor or innovation be misused?
No longer can we simply afford to design for upside potential without considering downside risk. Engineers and developers must be willing to build in safeguards to protect against misuse and abuse.
Spread the wealth
From how we search to how we interact on line to the type of smartphones we use, we have currently allowed ourselves to be inextricably linked to a small number of large and growing platforms.
This dynamic is creating a massive power vacuum for a handful of companies and magnifying the potential for bad outcomes. Instead of automatically defaulting to these companies, perhaps it’s time to consider other options that may meet your needs.
Only by creating true competition within the products and services that are used daily can we make sure that privacy, data protection and security are at the forefront of these offerings.
In 2018, the heads of major companies were brought before Congress to give an account of how their businesses functioned and how product design and execution were leading to undesirable outcomes.
For many who were knowledgeable about how technology works, it became obvious that those who would like to better monitor these companies are not as knowledgeable in these areas as we might have hoped.
These companies are built using sophisticated technical algorithms that are often patent-protected or deemed so innovative that their inner workings are considered trade secret.
Given the impact of technology on the economy, we need agencies that have expertise who can monitor and regulate these companies to protect the average consumer.
We don’t let ‘unsophisticated’ investors put their money into speculative or risky investments. In a similar manner, we shouldn’t let the everyday consumer sign up for technology based products and services simply because they are available online or via a mobile application.
Educate next generation
As technology was just developing, it may have been reasonable to assume that the downside risk was unknown.
However, after the past several decades of innovation and advancement that position is no longer defensible.
Instead, we need to educate the next generation of technologists on not only the amazing potential of technology but also of the potential to do harm if proper safeguards aren’t built in.
The next generation are most likely to make some of the most ambitious technological advancements a reality.
For those who are developing their skills in algorithms and engineering design, we must also be cognizant of building their fluency in how their inventions can have unforeseen impacts as well.
Over the coming weeks, months and years, technology will continue to be under a microscope because of the recognition of what a powerful role it plays in our daily lives.
While many of us have seen immense benefits from technology innovation, there are also some aspects that have people concerned.
By having those on the front lines question everything about what they are building to develop diverse offerings within technology, improved oversight and education of the next generation, we can start to re-balance the pendulum towards realizing the promised benefits and mitigating the risks.
This is technology based future that we can all proudly support.