Most emerging technologies have their own set of ethical guidelines. There are countless ethics guides to artificial intelligence that have been created in the past few years alone. Most of the guides are the result of people thinking about how to ‘responsibly’ use the technology in their particular sector or industry.
The civil society and humanitarian sectors are no different.
The underlying assumption appears to be that the technology is neutral, ethical, or good and it is the application of it that needs to be managed. So our discussions are about how to apply the technology in a ‘responsible’ manner. And we create guidelines.
Rarely is the question asked ‘should we be using this technology at all?” This is a harder question. This is a counter cultural question. The assumption is that because the technology exists, we should use it. In some cases, there is an assumption that not only should we use it, but that we are morally obligated to use it. But perhaps just because we can or even just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean we should.
Asking whether or not we should use X technology at all is a tough question. People will often assume you are against technology, a laggard, a ‘stick in the mud’. One way to help this discussion is to clarify the problem you are trying to solve with the technology. Or even the opportunity you are trying to capture. Sometimes we’re following trends. Sometimes we have a serious case of FOMO or fear being viewed as a laggard.
Asking the hard questions takes courage. And the world needs more brave people than ever before.
Photo by Etty Fidele