• Miguel Benavides

Society slowly reacting to a tech-driven world.

Social Impact (2/3).

Everything is fine, we´re in good hands...

It took decades of pressure for social agents to persuade businesses and regulators that companies should be responsible for their impact on society and on the environment. The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), with all its variances in names and forms, established the principle of ethics and accountability of companies as social agents. That caused all sorts of watchdog agencies to emerge. Businesses even included CSR as a permanent component in their strategy, allowing it to move towards stronger concepts like Corporate Citizenship, Shared Value…

If data is "the new oil”, shouldn’t we need new Environmental Protection Agencies, Labor Protection Agencies or Community Protection Agencies?

Well, if we talk about data being “the new oil”, shouldn’t we need new Environmental Protection Agencies watching data leaks, new Labor Protection Agencies to ensure new labor models meet the minimum social protection criteria. What about Community Protection Agencies to watch how using all that data affects communities, social life, or even human behavior? Mr. Soros said in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that “Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social media companies exploit the social environment… without them [people] even being aware of it”.

Again, and I´ve said it before, I am a true believer of the positive power of technology but the backlash of that tsunami of technology is raising major challenges: big scale disinformation and manipulation, addiction to dopamine, loss of privacy, switch to virtual human interactions… so many changes of which we can barely assess the impact. If Singularity is the overall objective… What´s left for human beings then?

If Singularity is the overall objective… What´s left for human beings then?

"Social impact" has become a buzzword but there´s no way to effectively measure the impact of this digital rush on society. Scientific approaches like the Life Cycle Assessment are extraordinarily complicated and often leverage environmental impact models applying a broader social perspective. Many initiatives emerge though, bringing some clarity to this discussion. For example, aim at developing methodologies and tools to help investors understand the true social impact of their investment opportunities. The Center for Humane Technology in San Francisco claims to be offering solutions to “reversing the digital attention crisis and realigning technology with humanity´s best interest”. These are all positive efforts leveraging technology, yet offering tools to mitigate the impacts of the "ask for forgiveness, not for permission" mentality. We may be seeing the early steps of a reactionary movement to slow down, adjust or correct the pace and direction of this technological rush.

A new social responsibility paradigm is needed.

A new social responsibility paradigm is needed. Leaders, regulators and social agents who will want to influence and shape the digital ecosystem into a more humane and society-friendly ecosystem will need to play by the same rules: be digital, be creative, don´t fear disruption, and move fast, very fast...

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