Ethics of new technology

By Marc Resnick

I am constantly amazed at the new developments constantly being added to high end technology.  High end smart phones, tablets, cars are becoming so powerful that they enable their owners to get benefits not available to others. Soon we will have personal UAVs, biometric chips, and tech unimaginable to us today. But what about the rest of us?  They can use these benefits to increase the income gap that is already too big. The digital divide could dwarf the grand canyon.

So here is what I have been torn over lately.  Part of my job involves designing these products and services to be even better, even easier, even more powerful, more useful.  Do I have a duty to put an equal amount of time and resources into designing significant benefits into low end technology to mitigate the widening of the digital divide?  We can’t guarantee equal outcomes, but should we at least try for equal opportunities?  Technology can be a powerful source of differentiation, but it can also be a powerful equalizer.  Is there an ethical duty that if we do the former, we also do the latter?

If my company isn’t interested, should I encourage my professional societies to take this on?  My estate planning?  They say that the definition of a good life is not the objects you pass on to the next generation, but the world you leave them with.

What do you think?

 

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2 Comments

  1. Ethics and business do not have to be exclusionary. There is a massive, untapped demand for basic infrastructure among developing and Third World nations. Low cost power, low cost telecommunications, education, medical services, etc. Anyone who can design a functional product that meets these basic needs will tap into a huge market. As the Chinese took to an international trade surplus, cheap can yield great profits when you sell lots of it.
    If we can develop very cheap generators, water purifiers, refrigerators, etc., the quality of life for these billions will improve – and those who supply will make a profit.

  2. Tafacory

    I hate to use the old cliche answer, but it really just depends on your ethical system. It seems that this is something that has made itself noticeable to you. Perhaps you should try to design some low end technology to prevent the gap from widening. It’s certainly a noble endeavor in my opinion.

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