[SydPhil] HPS Seminar - Nicole Vincent - FLOURISHING WITH EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES
debbie.castle at sydney.edu.au
Tue Mar 3 09:46:41 AEDT 2020
SCHOOL OF HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Held in conjunction with the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science
RESEARCH SEMINAR SERIES
MONDAY 9th MARCH 2020
DR NICOLE VINCENT
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation
FLOURISHING WITH EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES
Emerging technologies – e.g. autonomous vehicles, gene editing, blockchain, and smart drugs – promise an exciting future. Before this excitement can become a reality, though, concerns about safety, effectiveness, and equity must first be addressed. For instance, processing Bitcoin transactions is said to already chew up as much electricity as all of Denmark; no so-called “smart-drugs” are currently sufficiently safe or effective to make them fit for general public use; and to avoid increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots, autonomous vehicles and gene editing technologies would need to be affordable to everyone not only to the wealthy. Consequently, much attention is currently devoted to identifying and ironing out bugs, and to making such technologies more affordable. The key thought here is that once the bugs are ironed out, these technologies should be made so affordable that everyone can use and benefit from them.
However, what's often overlooked in the midst of excitement about the promise of emerging technologies, is what Tsjalling Swierstra calls "soft impacts". For instance, if sophisticated AI could extract highly accurate predictions and recommendations from vast quantities of data, might we eventually expect one another (and maybe even ourselves) to comply with AI's recommendations, and might we thus lose some freedom to make different choices? Or what if we could no longer take the car out for a spin, or hop on a motorbike, because humans were deemed way too dangerous by comparison with autonomous vehicles to let loose onto the roads — is this something that we might come to regret? Once we eradicate all the genetic conditions that we currently fear, mightn’t we then move on to changing humans in new ways which we presently find objectionable? And if everyone could afford safe smart drugs that made them more productive and less prone to fatigue, would free market competition eventually lead everyone to use them just to remain competitive and would we all end up working even longer days? Because such unintended consequences are often more difficult to imagine, because they critically depend not just on the technology itself but also on how people use it, and because frequently it is not even clear whether those consequences would be good, bad, or just different, concerns about soft impacts tend to either be overlooked or ignored, and sometimes even derided as hysterical "scare-mongering" that rests upon unrealistic and unlikely dystopic Brave New World and GATTACA scenarios.
However, I will argue that by overlooking, ignoring, and even deriding concerns about potential soft impacts, we effectively relinquish control over how we shall live our lives to the invisible hand of competition fuelled by morally undirected technological progress. Technologies shape the way we interact with one another, how we think of ourselves and others, and even what things we value. Thus, if we wish to have a say over such things – things which matter no less, though are admittedly harder to predict and evaluate, than the more-obvious "hard impacts" which we either explcitly aim to bring about, or can more easily foresee and attempt to avoid – then we will need to pay significantly more attention to soft impacts than we currently do. To live in a world we have chosen, rather than in whatever world we inadvertently create for ourselves, we need to contemplate the full range of consequenes of emerging technologies, not only those that are easy to imagine, to predict, and to evaluate. In order to make this task easier, in the final part of this talk I will describe one potential method for doing precisely this — a method which builds on an existing approach in medicine to identifying and safe-guarding against the unintended medical side-effects of medical procedures and technologies.
WHERE: LEVEL 5 FUNCTION ROOM
F23 NEW ADMINISTRATION BUILDING
WHEN: MONDAY 9TH MARCH 2020
START: 5.30PM (DOORS OPEN 5PM)
All Welcome | No Booking Required | Free
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