Looking back over the past 100 years, the greatest innovations occurred during periods of depression, post major warfare, when countries focused on economic growth and reducing unemployment. Not prioritizing how Sally from accounting will feel if we monitor her emails.
The emerging technologies that a quick internet search provides are those invented a generation ago. Cloud computing was invented in the 1960s and artificial intelligence was created in the 1950s. So why are we still placing these products into the same bucket and labeling its emerging technology? I believe it’s because no new major innovation has been introduced in the last 10 years, therefore we just recycle 70-year-old innovations and rebrand them ‘emerging’.
We haven’t changed dramatically in the way we earn a living, yes, most professionals use their mobile phones to respond to emails and work from cafes. The only tangible emerging technology is speed and accessibility. However, if cyber warfare disrupted this ‘new way of working’ and professionals were instead told all wireless devices are banned due to security concerns. It wouldn’t create an economic disaster, we would simply go to the office, turn on a device that’s connected via cables to the secure internal infrastructure and carry on working.
I believe if we want a life of working flexibly, access to the latest technology, greater healthcare, and a stronger military presence to protect our families then we must acknowledge the ethical impacts with a veil of ignorance.
During COVID-19, surveys have shown over 60% of employees want to work from home permanently. For organizations to allow this we must accept our email, phone calls, internet searches, and potentially geolocation will be monitored. Why colleague’s pushback on this continues to perplex me.
We are a clog in a large machine owned by organizations, if you stick to the contract and have nothing to hide then why raise the ethical flag. Essentially, we are going back to Frederick Taylor’s Scientific Management, by focusing on optimizing productivity through science is more efficient than making people work hard.
I feel there’s a strong correlation between access to technology, mainly smartphones, and professionals stating they are working longer. However, I don’t believe in 2020, we have more work to do than in 1920, we have the technology assisting us to access, analyze, and present information at greater speeds than ever before.
To build a competitive advantage post the COVID-19 era we must focus on combining emerging technology with collaboration amongst workplaces and let machines provide us insights into how we can work more efficiently rather than more hours.
We can spend valuable time debating whether the ethical impact of new technologies will be right or wrong. Or, we can accept the future controlled by machines, fuelled by data we provide in return for a life of flexibility, family-oriented lifestyles with greater health and longevity.
The world has become hypersensitive, with the manufactured media taking over our minds, our creativity, and our acceptance of new technology. In the workplace, we spend more time discussing the latest Tweet from Donald Trump, the new Netflix documentary which showcases how AI will take our jobs, or a meme illustrating how 5G caused COVID-19.
As a result, the adoption of new technology is slow, new ideas to change the world are lacking, and we’ve become busier even though the rise of technology was meant to provide us with more leisure time.
Ethical dilemmas will become part of everyday life. However, they should be used as constructive feedback mechanisms to mold breakthrough technologies that do not disrupt adoption.
Stephen Hawking was a strong believer in nurturing machines to assist the way we work and live our lives. He highlighted that the accurate projections of Moore’s Law will one day result in technology becoming more powerful and intelligent than humans. It’s inevitable. Therefore, by harnessing quantum computing, ML, and AI to create a world free from diseases, where everyone has instant access to education, and professionals can work for a London based company in Southern Tasmania. In return, we must accept our privacy and data will become more intertwined with everything around us. It doesn’t sound so bad.
Finally, a closing quote from Stephen Hawking who summarises the importance of the next 10 years we face as professionals. Either we focus more on the technology, how to control it and use it to our advantage. Or, continue a mindless existence of GIF sharing and over-analyzing Instagram likes whilst machines take over our lives.
“We stand on the brink of a brave new world. When we invented fire, we messed up repeatedly, then invented the fire extinguisher. With more powerful technologies such as nuclear weapons, synthetic biology, and strong artificial intelligence, we should instead plan and aim to get things right the first time, because it may be the only chance we get” (Hawking 2018).