"Over the past decade there has been a rising sense of technological anxiety -- are we headed toward a tech future we don’t want?
There is a palpable sense that the tools that we have developed to improve our lives are not serving us well, and may be making things worse—a sense that if we don’t reassess and recalibrate, we could cause even more harm. Many of us feel that social media divides and polarizes us. We worry that our devices and screens breed addiction, depression, and otherwise damage our mental health. We’re anxious about how our data is being gathered, monetized, sold, and possibly used against us in ways that we are only beginning to fathom. We fear that artificial intelligence (AI) tools we are building are reproducing and even augmenting societal biases in their black box decision making. We know that AI has already begun replacing jobs and worry that ours may be next.
The pandemic has surfaced both the problems and the immense potential of technology as a source of community and knowledge sharing. After almost two years into a global pandemic, the risks and benefits of technology appear to be even more unevenly distributed across social groups and geographies. Our inability to agree on a coordinated and reasonable response has spotlighted the extent to which we need to improve trust in information, institutions, and each other. The importance of aligning our technology with public interest has become more pronounced—even as we're just realizing what "aligning technology with the public interest" truly means.
It’s Time for Action
The issues we face around tech and society (misinformation, AI ethics, algorithmic bias, hate speech, facial recognition, to name just a few) are complex. They require us to not only consider the ethical and societal ramifications of the technology that we build, but to also surface potential unintended consequences, negative externalities, and impacts across a variety of communities. They also require continuous stewardship, with monitoring, assessment, and accountability mechanisms."
Organizations are springing up around the world to investigate these concerns, to articulate the problems, and to come up with solutions. Popular documentaries like Coded Bias and The Social Dilemma are surfacing the conversation, and inspiring new voices to enter the ecosystem. Governments and policymakers are becoming involved in the form of guidelines and regulations, and tech companies are being held accountable by their customers and employees.
And so the field of “Responsible Technology” has emerged, benefiting from the convergence of various movements—including ethical tech, responsible innovation, responsible AI, trust & safety, digital citizenship, and tech for good. The Responsible Tech ecosystem is fed by an underlying knowledge base of researchers, academics, and advocates who have done decades worth of foundational work. Together, we are all motivated by a common goal: to co-create a better tech future that is aligned with the public interest."
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