The optimism people felt about technology in the early 2000s is giving way to a more realistic view after a year full of eye-opening events.
Technology received some tough blows during the past year. Platforms Facebook, Twitter and Google had to testify about the Russian ad campaigns that fuelled American polarisation. Uber had to tackle its toxic ‘bro culture.’ And Google was shaken up by the memo of former Google developer James Damore.
Disrupt first, fix later
Such revelations are cringeworthy and reveal some deep-rooted problems within the tech industry that transcend singular companies. Startups ready to scale have to roll out their services as quickly as possible, resulting often in an aggressive strategy without the sense of responsibility needed to address the problems the company might cause.
Many tech unicorns are now confronted with issues related to this pressure. They are also confronted with the unexpected influence they have on other aspects of life, like social media’s role in politics or how dominant the smartphone has become in our lives.
Technology goes back as far as human history goes and it will continue to change life. But we need to shoulder responsibility when it takes a bad turn.
Technology continually changes our way of living. It has done this as far back as human history goes and it will continue to do so. But we need to shoulder responsibility when it takes a bad turn. There are new upcoming technologies on the horizon that will likely influence our society in even more profound ways. Machine learning is a recent example, as is blockchain. Both are developing fast and flow into many different sectors. We can’t let these end in ‘oops’ scenarios.
New voices in tech
Developers and designers do what they are good at and want their product to succeed and improve life for its users. But the focus of Silicon Valley on young male developers has created a monotone culture, in which the conversation about technology isn’t open for voices who don’t fit that culture.
By adding these different and new voices from other backgrounds to the conversation, problems can be tackled from many different sides and issues will surface quicker, so technology will become more inclusive. How would a sociologist look at Uber, for example? Or a city mobility planner?
That is what Curious Robot is about. We add diverse and new voices to the tech conversation. Technology is a part of our lives, so we believe everybody should be able to be part of the conversation. This approach will not only enrich the discussions, but might also help tech companies to resolve issues before they turn into a PR nightmare.
Technology is a part of our lives, so we all should be part of the conversation.
For a lot of people, technology is something that happens to us, out of our control. We often feel overwhelmed by the current pace at which technology changes and try to escape the constant buzzing, chirping and pinging.
But technology is not something we can hide from. Building new things is part of what makes us human. That’s why Curious Robot strives for a better tech-life balance. Rather than running from technology, we want to encourage people to find ways to strike a better balance. This means we should also call it out when technology causes personal or societal problems.
As we are moving from tech optimism to tech realism, journalists are taking up the role to become its watchdog. ProPublica recently announced that it is using algorithms and tools to keep the tech industry in check. Curious Robot considers itself to be part of this movement. We want to loop in all voices to keep technology accountable to those who use it and the communities they live in.
Want to stay in the loop?
Curious Robot is a budding tech news company. It will launch a weekly newsletter mid-March that curates insightful stories about the impact of technology on us as human beings and the society we live in. It offers food for thought on the ethics of tech and how we can keep it on track to improve life on earth and beyond.
If you want to stay in the loop while we develop our newsroom, you can follow us here on Medium, where we will be talking about new developments over the coming months.
Do you have a question yourself or your own story to tell? Do reach out to us and drop a note via social media and we will be in touch.
This blogpost first appeared on the Curious Robot publication on Medium.