Embrace New Responsibilities in Age of New Tech

Human imagination is the foundation of all technology, and with the convergence of multiple technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the technological fantasies that inventors have created are even more audacious. These bold technological fantasies drive innovation and will impact society. The rapid integration of General Purpose Technologies (GPT) into society, economies, and homes presents both economic and social opportunities but also the potential for immense social peril.

The power of decision architecture influences people’s decision-making process, as demonstrated by the underappreciated and underestimated power of social media decision architecture. Social media was created on the basis of the bold technological fantasy of connecting everyone with their friends. Since then, it has expanded to become a utility for businesses, a precision advertising platform, and a loudspeaker for public officials and terrorists alike.

Human imagination is the foundation for everything in the world around us, and the convergence of various technologies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution has driven innovation and impacted society. However, the power of decision architecture is also underappreciated and underestimated, as it can influence social cohesion and mental well-being. Over the years, algorithms have evolved, leading to the creation of algorithmic systems that incentivize people to stay on social media platforms for as long as possible to view as many ads as possible. Facebook, for example, relies on 97.5% of its revenue from ads, which has led to negative consequences for mental health across all demographics.

At the individual level, algorithmic decision architecture that exclusively favors corporate incentives has adversely impacted mental well-being. The Wall Street Journal found that TikTok’s algorithm could classify and show viewers items they were interested in even if they did not explicitly search for it. Meta’s social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, have been linked to escalating body image issues among teenagers, leading to low self-esteem and potential suicide.

At the societal level, algorithmic decision architecture that exclusively favors corporate incentives without considering downstream order effects has created polarized and fragmented societies. The Center for Humane Technology highlights the impact of AI on society in their AI Dilemma presentation, which highlights information overload, doomscrolling, addiction, shortened attention spans, sexualization of children, polarization, fake news, cult factories, deepfake bots, and the breakdown of democracy.

Software developers have overlooked their duty to society when they focused solely on creating algorithms that were incentivised to maximize engagement on the platform. The next interaction with AI is expected to result in a reality collapse due to an excess of fake everything, leading to a trust collapse. Eugenia Kuyda created Replika, an AI chatbot that allows users to create personalized companions posthumously. This technology addresses a growing social problem of loneliness and social isolation, which has been highlighted by the US Surgeon General in May 2023. The UK and Japan have appointed ministers for loneliness, but studies show that this epidemic also exists in Africa, India, and other parts of the world.

The Center for Humane Technology’s “Three Rules of Humane Tech” emphasizes that when you invent a new technology, you uncover a new class of responsibilities. This rule applies not only to those who invent it but also to all users of the technology. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policy includes a section on the “Right to be Forgotten,” which was not necessary until computers could remember us in perpetuity. New laws may need to be created to force companies to maintain the cloud infrastructure of digital companions across an individual’s lifetime, as well as rights for algorithmic companions to prevent grieving or loneliness. Additionally, new laws may be needed to protect customized algorithms and access to them.

Government policies and regulations will be needed to mitigate and manage the social implications of existing and new AI technologies. However, the current state of technological advancement exceeds the speed with which regulations are legislated. Companies should not abdicate their responsibility for creating algorithmic systems that do not destroy social cohesion, exacerbate loneliness, or push teenagers to commit suicide. Instead, the wild technological fantasy should be to design algorithmic systems that create incentives for human flourishing and socio-economic prosperity.

AIAI Dilemmaartificial intelligence (AI)Artificial Intelligence'Embrace New Responsibilities in Age of New TechfacebookGovernment policiesHumane TechmetaNew ResponsibilitiesNew TechResponsibilitiestechTikTokTwitterX