• Miguel Benavides

Technology: Social Impact or Social Threat?

Social Impact (1/3).

Something incredible is happening: Global technological capabilities are accelerating to an uncontrollable pace. Digital Revolution is of such magnitude that while we still try to define the features of the Industry 4.0, the world already talks about the path to Technological Singularity, an artificial intelligence explosion that will surpass all human intelligence. I have been wondering what happened to the concept of Social Responsibility of businesses and consumers in this digital reality. How fast can technology´s (positive) Social Impact become a Social Threat?

Technology accelerates change well beyond the Regulators ability to adjust. The gap is widening at a vertiginous speed allowing business and social experiments to take place, sometimes with good intentions, most of the times with just a desired economic return in mind. One way entrepreneurs adapt is simply following the motto: “ask for forgiveness, not for permission”. That definitely is an effective way of moving forward, and moving fast, but rarely has speed been associated with sustainability in the social domain.

These new giants are like black holes, with immense gravitational power attracting cash and data.

In the meantime, while most of us were enjoying the thrill of new functionality available on our smart phone, a new power has emerged. A handful of young mega-companies, growing fast and furious, approaching trillion-dollar valuations. The 5 biggest US technology companies alone are valued at over $3.5 trillion. These new giants are like black holes, with immense gravitational power attracting cash and data. Players in every industry cross their fingers not to see these giants enter their business.

Also, technologists are increasingly ruling the world. I know, investors still are, and cash still is the lifeblood of business, but even money has now its own technological avatars: cryptocurrencies. How long before we start seen an avatar big enough to threaten Wall Street? But these are big words. Now take your coffee maker, it has its own planned obsolescence. You don´t know when it´ll break, but the IoT does. Magic! You got an ad on your shower wall this morning selling you the features of the latest coolest coffee maker even before you knew yours was broken! Technology can be wonderful… yes, and you get a hot coffee for free if you order now!

Everything’s fine, there is nothing to worry about... We´re in good hands.

Everything’s fine, there is nothing to worry about. We know where we are heading. Customer Centricity and Employee Centricity tell us about today´s companies good intentions. Social Impact is the slogan of a global entrepreneurial movement and is also attached to the ideals of a whole generation of Millennials. Anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, experts in Humanities and Social Sciences in general are the new recruiting hype. We´re in good hands.

Take the regulatory gap, add an unprecedented level of data collection, and mix with new extraordinary centers of power that concentrate technology, cash, data, recognition, and now human behavior scientists. We are in good hands... are we eally?

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