ethics #technology #sustanability

Ethic and technology, a topic that only grew in importance in the last year. And it is still a beginning. There is still a lot to do:

  • Intersection,
  • diversity within teams,
  • understanding each other’s language…
  • and of course going for the best for society

Some examples of initiatives in Belgium about technology and ethic

  • Technology philosophers Mark Coeckelbergh and Katleen Gabriels argue with robot engineer Bram Vanderborght to introduce compulsory ethics courses in the training of engineers, programmers and other technology developers
  • GIST is a new non-for-profit collective. They aim to raise awareness and knowledge on topics where technology and social challenges come together.
  • Agoria started with a focus group on “AI Ethics Regularization & Standarization.
  • Imec hired a Program Director AI: Mieke Geertrui De Ketelaere, a Ethical AI evangelist.
  • The Federal AI Expert Group was established. Their general goal is to support the implementation of the European Strategy on Artificial Intelligence. This includes the elaboration of recommendations on future-related policy development and on ethical, legal and social issues related to AI, including socio-economic challenges.

Technology makes life easy

Technology is about “making life easier”. Thanks to AI, for example, breast cancer can be detected faster . Self-driving cars – without ownership – give mobility a completely different meaning.

The designers of the tools and technologies should also be aware of the indirect effects on society.

  • Who is responsible if a self-driving car breaks into a person?
  • How can we deploy care robots tailored to the patient?
  • What about algorithms that already determine who is selected for a job interview?
  • What about sexist comments via chatbots?

The bridge between technology and social sciences

That the bridge between technology and ethics or other social sciences remains so large, touches me. Do we all not want a sustainable society? We are now in full technological transformation, let’s get the hang of it!

Giving ethics in engineers or more technical training is a step in the right direction. I go one step further. These courses must provide insight into the added value that social scientists can contribute to the digital transformation. I am a strong believer in cross-pollination and collaborating teams, each with their own expertise but with open mind and respect for each other.

Curiosity: the motivation to learn

Engineers and social sientists seem to be two cultures. They have their own language, their own symbols and rituals, the prejudices etc inclus. Each starts from his own worldview, or model (s). For example:

  • something is right or wrong;
  • has the logical consequence that…

Models are only simplifications and give a limited scope. Each focuses on a part of the whole. If we look through different models, we notice limitations. By integrating different models, we move towards a broader image. This broader image tends more towards reality. That is why it is advisable to be curious about the others. You get to know the other but also yourself better.

Where there is a will, there is a way

Ethical abuses are often an unintended result. People only look or think based on one, their own, world, model. Not so hard to avoid this…

Moreover, society is a system of people and groups of people. People are sophisticated, multi-dimensional and are capable of sequences of behavior. In the end, we do not follow the same set rules, unlike atoms. People learn, change, adapt, we are crazy creatures!

To give meaning to the world or to understand it, you need different models as an individual. This is how you create internal dialogue between logic and the world. You test these views in reality and in this way build your own model: “reality feedback loop”. f

Learning to deal with complex systems 

To get an understanding of complex systems, such as societies, we need multiple points of view. Preferably from different models and different perspectives. It is fantastic to combine these diverse models and learn from the interactions that arise between the variables. But we cannot create a general large model that contains every causal factor. It is important to think fast, to adapt, to observe, to imagine and to make connections between models and new insights.

Social scientist discover the world of technology!

To understand society as an individual, it is good to understand different models. Mark Coeckelbergh, Katleen Gabriels and Bram Vanderborght encourage technical profiles to gain a broader perspective. I want to make a warm appeal to all social scientists: discover the world of technology: it is so fascinating! Form and embrace mixed teams. Listen with an open mind, inspire and amaze each other … Because of diversity, transparency and cooperation, people go faster in innovation and this – I have already said it – in a sustainable way.

If it remains difficult to understand the other’s point of view, engage an anthropologist. Be aware of his or her background.

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