- The forum Responsible use of technology Project has been running for more than two years.
- Based on previous work, here are three predictions for the future of responsible technology.
- This includes responsible investing, targeted regulation, and the incorporation of technology ethics into higher education.
For the past two years, the World Economic Forum has worked closely with a diverse group of experts to advance the field of ethics in technology. This project entitled Responsible use of technology, started when 40+ government, civil society and business leaders, some with competing agendas, met at the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco. This group agreed on the important goal of providing tools and techniques that leaders can use to operationalize ethics throughout the technology lifecycle.
This multi-stakeholder project community has campaigned for both human rights-based and ethics-based approaches for responsible use of technology, promoted the use of Behavioral economic principles in organizational design to encourage more ethical behavior with technology and highlighted techniques for responsible technology product innovation. As we move into the third year of this project, we have some predictions about the future of responsible technology that we would like to share.
1. The rise of responsible technology investments
When this project was conceived, the original intent was to equip practitioners with tools and techniques that they can use to achieve more ethical results during the design, development, deployment, and use of technology. One such technique is Scan consistency, which helps product managers, designers, and developers anticipate the potential intended and unintended consequences of a new product or function.
However, as our society becomes more aware of the impact of technology on human rights, leaders are looking at the earliest stages of technological innovation. You begin to wonder if investors are doing ethical and human rights assessments of the startups they invest in or incubate. One recently Report published by Amnesty International shows that none of the top 10 venture capital firms Venture Capital JournalThe top 50 list included adequate human rights due diligence in the valuation of companies.
Our research shows that the vast majority of the world’s most influential venture capital firms have little or no consideration of the human rights implications of their decisions. Because the stakes are so high, investors need to embrace the idea of investing responsibly in technology and commit to more solid human rights assessments in their due diligence process.
—Michael Kleinman, Director, Silicon Valley Initiative, Amnesty International / AIUSA
With human rights groups like Amnesty International putting this issue first, along with the surge in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment and increasing demands for Stakeholder capitalism, we anticipate that there will be further advances in responsible investing in technology, especially in venture capital, in the years ahead.
2. Targeted tech regulation: just the beginning
The year 2021 will go down in history as a crucial year for global technology regulation. In fact, the European Commission (EC) launched its Artificial Intelligence Act, a comprehensive regulatory proposal that classifies all AI applications into four different risk categories (unacceptable risk, high risk, limited risk and minimal risk) and introduces specific requirements for each individual. proof suggests that U.S. regulators also take enforcement action against biased AI systems, while federal lawmakers have proposed various rules to regulate facial recognition.
The public mood is also changing in the USA. In April 2021 Pew Research Center Survey56% of Americans said they support stronger regulation of large tech companies, up from 47% in June 2020. In China, regulators recently launched a crackdown on technology. The Chinese government published a document in August 2021, according to which the authorities will actively promote legislation in areas such as national security, technological innovation and anti-monopoly. These regulatory activities are likely to intensify due to the growing demand for trustworthy technology solutions.
The days of technology companies operating in the “Wild West” are over. Civil society and governments are beginning to hold companies accountable for how their products are used by end users and for the impact they can have on key societal processes and communities. We will continue to see a move towards government regulation that is disjointed across different markets. These changes are already affecting the way companies do business, and leaders need to keep these ethical and legal obligations in mind.
—Rachel Gillum, Head of Global Policy, Ethical and Humane Use, Salesforce
We anticipate that future regulations will be more focused on specific technologies, industries, use cases, risk profiles and affected communities.
3. Tech ethics will be compulsory in higher education
Until recently, most students studying computer science, electrical engineering, and data science could graduate without taking an ethics course. Universities that offered technology ethics courses viewed them as electives, not compulsory. This is in contrast to other disciplines such as law and medicine, which treat ethics as a central part of professional training. Most workplace technologists today have not even faced the social or humanities aspects of their future professions throughout their formal education. We believe this will change. As technology ethics issues continue to permeate public awareness, we anticipate that most universities will offer more technology ethics courses and make them compulsory for students to graduate in technical fields.
Given the preeminent role of computer scientists and engineers in reshaping all facets of human life, colleges are beginning to reshape the way these disciplines are taught. Central to this rethinking are ethical thinking courses that force computer scientists and engineers to review their ethical obligations to the societies that influence their technologies on a daily basis.
—Will Griffin, chief ethics officer, HyperGiant
Some companies already require responsible technology training for all employees. Organize professional associations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Technology ethics conferencesand nonprofits like that Responsible institute for artificial intelligence step in by offering opportunities to certify the skills included in these training courses. We believe that most universities will soon follow suit.
As new technologies permeate our everyday lives, the area of responsible technology is expanding. What was previously viewed as a function of the financial sector, such as ethical investment practice, is increasingly viewed as part of the technology lifecycle. Laissez-faire governance approaches that enable the use and misuse of technology platforms will no longer be tolerated. And educators in technical fields like data science have to deal with interdisciplinary studies on ethics and law.
In fact, while working on the Responsible Use of Technology project, we’ve seen growing interest and involvement in sectors from banking to food and beverages – reminding us that every business today is a technology company. The predictions outlined above show how different actors are starting to band together to address technology ethics issues. As the world becomes more complex and interconnected, it is a holistic and multi-pronged approach to governance that enables communities to experience the benefits of these new technologies and avoid the damage.