The hype around emerging technologies like blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), self-driving cars, Big Data, home automation, drones and so on, is loud. The hopes of Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Amazon and others all rest on these technologies taking off. They all offer great opportunities to advance commerce, create and destroy jobs and make our world a better place. There are downsides to each as well, as it is with all technologies. The printing press enabled the exchange of knowledge, but also lead to a lot of arguing between academics…but there are some serious questions we’re going to have to deal with in the next few years. Here I take a look at some of them and maybe you’ll have one or two to add.
Free Will & Human Agency: While privacy has and continues to be a concern, the issues of free will and human agency could be even bigger. No more so than with predictive analytics. Imagine that you apply to university for a commerce undergrad and you’re rejected. Why? Because the university’s predictive analytics program saw that neither of your parents had a college degree and worked blue collar jobs, so no advanced education for you. Or you’re rejected for car insurance based on an AI algorithm. Does this take away your free will?
The Jobs Gap: It is likely that whole new jobs will be created from all these technologies. But they won’t happen overnight. If mass unemployment happens, that will mean no money to consume goods. Robots might be efficient, but if there’s no one to buy the goods they produce, they’re not much use. This will have to be addressed through government or corporate programs. Will Basic Income be a solution?
Who Owns Your Biologicals: There have already been legal battles over who owns their genome. This could get worse as we introduce 3D printing of human organs and perhaps even brain tissues.
The Underground Economy: Hundreds of millions of people around the world rely on “cash under the table” to survive. If we eliminate cash with technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrencies, tracking to taxation becomes easier and sliding money under the table not so easy. Is this okay?
There are many more big questions around these emerging technologies. In some cases these technologies may end up taking several decades to be truly integrated into our societies. Some may be stopped altogether or radically changed. Just how much should government regulate? Can corporations self-regulate?
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