We need new ground rules for information technologies.

Until the last two decades, information technologies had most of their impact within the halls of corporations and governments. Then of course, along came the world wide web, the internet. Quick on its heels cam social media. Smartphones and wireless data and pervasive WiFi took things to a whole new level. Suddenly, we’ve become cyborgs.
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Western democracies hailed a new era of democratic growth lay ahead and the rally cries were ever louder as the Arab Spring of 2011 unfolded, only to sputter out and leave ever more brutal dictators in place or placed anew. In this, social media have failed us. Now, anti-democratic nations use information technologies to disrupt democracies and they’re doing a splendid job of it. On the upside, it facilitated the #MeToo movement. One can hardly think that Zuckerberg or Dorsey thought of the geopolitical ramifications of their tools.
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And now we are seeing the rise of artificial intelligence, blockchain and cryptocurrencies along with the Internet-of-Things. All of which can be immensely valuable and good. But they can also be incredibly bad and destructive.
If we should have learned anything by now, it is that these information technologies have some inherent truths to them. Ones that going forward, should addressed. What we need is a set of ground rules that both governments and industry will use in considering the deployment and development of these technologies. I call them the Precepts of Information Technologies and briefly outline them here, while going deeper in my forthcoming book “Systems of Distrust; can technology save our complex world?”
The nine essential precepts are;
  1. All information technologies have a dual purpose of good and bad.
  2. Information technologies can impact human agency and free will
  3. For any information technology, privacy must be considered
  4. Any information technology can be exploited
  5. Any information technology can have social and geopolitical impacts
  6. All information technologies must be considered in the context of global ecosystems.
  7. All information technologies have unintended consequences
  8. All information technologies will be used for a purpose other than that for which it was invented.
  9. All information technologies can have economic impacts
There may be others. This is where I am today through conversations with university deans and professors in computer science, psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists, CIO’s and CTO’s. From these precepts, we must consider the implications of legislation and regulation, how politicians can be educated and law makers adapt in a rapidly changing landscape.
Some may see such thoughts as hampering innovation and stifling economic growth. That there is too much government. But as we know, technology does not like democracy. As our world becomes ever more complex, we will need to turn to information technologies ever more, especially artificial intelligence. If social media technologies have taught us anything, it is that blindly charging ahead with assumptions based on desires is probably not a good idea.
Do you have a precept that you’d add?
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