Category: Social Implications of Technology

Reflection for a More Equitable World Post-Pandemic

By on September 2nd, 2021 in Ethics, Human Impacts, Last Word, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

Reflective thinking allows humans to examine the past with intentionality, learn from what happened, and adapt accordingly. We explore thoughts, feelings, and actions, mine out insights, and enhance awareness.

Covid-19 in Conversations

By on August 21st, 2021 in Articles, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Editorial & Opinion, Ethics, Health & Medical, Human Impacts, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

The fiercest public health crisis in a century has elicited cooperative courage and sacrifice across the globe. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic is producing severe social, economic, political, and ethical divides, within and between nations. It is reshaping how we engage with each other and how we see the world around us. It urges us to think more deeply on many challenging issues—some of which can perhaps offer opportunities if we handle them well. The transcripts that follow speak to the potency and promise of dialogue. They record two in a continuing series of “COVID-19 In Conversations” hosted by Oxford Prospects and Global Development Institute.

Bias and Discrimination in AI: A Cross-Disciplinary Perspective

By on August 7th, 2021 in Articles, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Ethics, Human Impacts, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

Digital discrimination is becoming a serious problem, as more and more decisions are delegated to systems increasingly based on artificial intelligence techniques such as machine learning. Although a significant amount of research has been undertaken from different disciplinary angles to understand this challenge—from computer science to law to sociology— none of these fields have been able to resolve the problem on their own terms. We propose a synergistic approach that allows us to explore bias and discrimination in AI by supplementing technical literature with social, legal, and ethical perspectives.

Facing the Fragility of the Man-Made World

By on August 7th, 2021 in Articles, Blog Posts, Case Studies, Environment, Ethics, Human Impacts, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

When we see a built world, we tend to take its permanence and stability for granted. For those who have chosen coastal homes, that built world goes back at least 50 years, with few residents ever realizing that oceans, lakes, and rivers are living entities constantly in motion. The average person relies upon experts such as architects and civil engineers, and supposed guardrails such as state building codes and homeowner associations, to assess safety when purchasing property. But the 21st-century assumption that the built world is stable is a risky bet. Especially in “business-friendly” states. 

Vaccines, Public Health, and the Law

By on July 21st, 2021 in Articles, Editorial & Opinion, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology

Disease prevention due to successful vaccination is a double-edged sword as it can give the illusion that mass vaccination is no longer warranted. Antivaccination movements are not completely absent throughout history, but for example, most recently, parents have been declining childhood vaccines at alarming levels [2, S9]. Safety concerns and misinformation seem to be at the forefront of these movements.

High Voltages and Low Esthetic Standards: Three Design Principles to Humanize Electricity Pylons

By on July 11th, 2021 in Social Implications of Technology

Few people would celebrate modern infrastructure networks as magnificent beacons of our civilization: our powerlines and pipelines are drab, unsightly intrusions on the landscape. Reflecting on this, the philosopher Alain de Botton points out the Roman aqueduct at Pont Du Gard in Southern France, which is now a famous tourist attraction even though it was built for the dull task of supplying municipal water. Wisely, the Romans built it, and many others, for both beauty and function, brightening citizens’ views while slaking their thirst. Indeed, so lovely is the Roman aqueduct of Segovia that it is featured in the emblem of that province.

A headshot of SSIT's 2021-2022 President, Clint Andrews

If a Colleague Asks: “Will My Innovation Have Unintended Consequences?”

By on June 20th, 2021 in Articles, Human Impacts, Magazine Articles, President's Message, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

Unintended consequences of technological development matter in practice and thus are not just of academic interest. SSIT would do well to spark constructive and practical discussion about managing unintended consequences.

Norbert Wiener – Governance with Probabilities

By on June 14th, 2021 in Conferences, Human Impacts, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

The 21st Century Norbert Wiener Conference with the theme: “Being Human in a Global Village” is the third in a series of conferences initiated by the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT), following events in Boston (2014) and Melbourne (2016).

AI vs “AI”: Synthetic Minds or Speech Acts

By on June 10th, 2021 in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Editorial & Opinion, Ethics, Human Impacts, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

Just as the “autonomous” in lethal autonomous weapons allows the military to dissemble over responsibility for their effects, there are civilian companies leveraging “AI” to exert control without responsibility.

And so we arrive at “trustworthy AI” because, of course, we are building systems that people should trust and if they don’t it’s their fault, so how can we make them do that, right? Or, we’ve built this amazing “AI” system that can drive your car for you but don’t blame us when it crashes because you should have been paying attention. Or, we built it, sure, but then it learned stuff and it’s not under our control anymore—the world is a complex place.

From Artificial Intelligence Bias to Inequality in the Time of COVID-19

By on June 8th, 2021 in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Editorial & Opinion, Human Impacts, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing global inequalities. Whether at the local, national, or international scale, the gap between the privileged and the vulnerable is growing wider, resulting in a broad increase in inequality across all dimensions of society. The disease has strained health systems, social support programs, and the economy as a whole, drawing an ever-widening distinction between those with access to treatment, services, and job opportunities and those without.

Champions of AI4Eq: Equity as an Adaptive Challenge

By on May 27th, 2021 in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Human Impacts, Last Word, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

We celebrated AI for mental health equity when access is augmented for marginalized populations. We applauded AI as a complement to current services; practitioners would be less overtaxed and more productive, thereby serving vulnerable populations better.

Book Review: Techno-Fixers: Origins and Implications of Technological Faith

By on May 23rd, 2021 in Book Reviews, Environment, Human Impacts, Magazine Articles, Social Implications of Technology, Societal Impact

The public’s faith in science and technology has never been higher. Computer “apps” that explore things such as the frequency of, and point of origin of, COVID-related Google search terms, and Twitter posts, are being used to trace the progress of the virus and to predict the sites of further outbreaks. The United States has been roiled by the death, at the hands of the police, of George Floyd. Floyd’s killing was captured by an app that has been circulating throughout the globe that has acquired the near iconic power of the crucifixion. With the majority of the American people equipped to make audio–visual recording of police brutality and post them on social media, we expect that crimes such as this will certainly diminish.