What is the difference between technology in the past and now?
Technological complexity and interconnectivity are increasing. Today’s automobiles, aircraft, medical devices, financial processes, and electrical systems employ more computer software than ever before, which makes them seem harder to understand and, in certain cases, control. There is less human-to-human contact than ever before due to government and corporate surveillance of people and information processing, which primarily relies on digital technologies and artificial intelligence. This creates more opportunities for biases to become encoded and embedded in our technological systems in ways we might not even be able to recognize or identify. The field of bioengineering is expanding its horizons to tackle philosophical, political, and economic inquiries concerning the relationship between humans and nature. Furthermore, these big and tiny systems and gadgets are increasingly managed via the cloud, which makes control over them extremely distant and cut off from social or human oversight. Because it is so difficult to comprehend how technologies like artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things function or who is responsible when something goes wrong, the study of how to make these technologies “explainable” has grown into its own field of study.
Because of this increasing complexity, it is more important than ever for academics to investigate how global technological developments are affecting people’s lives in both positive and negative ways, as well as what social, political, and legal measures are necessary to influence the development and design of technology in ways that will be beneficial. Given how quickly technology is advancing and how certain it seems that it will continue to do so, it may seem impossible to accomplish this, but many nations are only now starting to take meaningful action to regulate computer technologies and are still in the process of completely reevaluating the laws governing international data flows and cross-border technology exchange. Not only are technical advancements and policymaking exciting times, but we also have more sophisticated and sophisticated technologies than ever before, and with them comes greater knowledge on how to effectively use, safeguard, and even limit them. The organizational structures of technological systems, which range from highly distributed, open, and decentralized open systems to tightly controlled, closed systems structured in accordance with more rigid and hierarchical models, are largely determined by institutional and governmental policies. These structures have enormous implications for social organization and agency. Furthermore, our knowledge of the social, cultural, political, and environmental aspects of emerging technologies is expanding in novel and fascinating ways, much like our understanding of technology governance. We are becoming increasingly conscious of the challenges and importance of describing the whole range of ways that technology is changing our society, together with the changes we would like to see and the tools at our disposal to try to steer and impact those changes.
Technology has the capacity to be very beneficial. The main issues affecting our society now are hunger, disease, and climate change. For those who believe that innovation and the possibility of creative destruction may foster economic advancement and enhance quality of life, technology is a vital economic engine (Schumpeter, 1942). However, it can also be an extremely frightening and oppressive tool, introducing biases into automated decision-making and information-processing algorithms, greatly escalating economic and social disparities both within and between nations, and opening up new attack vectors and weapons that have never been seen before. Some scholars even argue that the term “technology” originated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, signaling a change from the dangerous (or hazardous) perspective that smaller, simpler technological systems were a semiautonomous form of progress in and of themselves to larger, more complex technological systems as a means of achieving political and social progress (Marx 2010). In an effort to lessen the negative effects of technological change on society, engineers have recently strongly condemned what they see as a new crop of Luddites who want to stall technological advancement and reverse innovation (Marlowe 1970).
Arguments about new technologies and the resulting global changes usually center on two opposing views of technology: one that is fundamentally optimistic and holds that humans use technology as a tool to achieve greater goals, and the other that is fundamentally pessimistic and believes that technological systems have reached a point beyond our control. Since technologies are accepted in new settings and are often employed in ways that deviate dramatically from the use cases that their inventors intended, these effects are frequently unforeseen. The internet was created to facilitate information transfer between computer networks, but it also became a vital tool for trade and opened up new channels for financial fraud and criminal activity. Originally created as a way for friends and family to stay in touch via the sharing of photos and life updates, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have grown to be hotbeds of political influence and electoral controversy. Although the initial idea behind crypto currencies was to provide a decentralized digital currency, as more and more computer power is being used to mine these virtual currencies, they are becoming a serious environmental risk. Thus, one of the most significant challenges in this field is recognizing, documenting, and even anticipating some of these unintended consequences and providing technologists with tools to help them think through the implications of their work as well as alternate routes that might lead to different outcomes (Verbeek 2006). Technological developments can have tremendously positive benefits in addition to unexpected negative ones. For instance, new energy sources may significantly cut emissions and contribute to the fight against climate change; new vaccinations and medications can combat global pandemics and save countless lives; and new forms of education can reach people who would not otherwise have access to it. As such, technology regulation requires a careful balance between lowering risks and not unreasonably impeding potentially beneficial breakthroughs.
In an effort to implement more contemporary governance structures and procedures, countries have accepted a variety of diverse technologies and have chosen radically varied ways to regulate new technology (Barman 2009). Much more anticipatory regulation in Europe has been guided by the precautionary principle and aims to address the hazards posed by technologies before they are fully realized. In order to address current security and privacy threats, such as data breaches, the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union, for example, focuses on the obligations of data controllers and processors to provide individuals access to their data and information about how that data is being used. not to mention to protect against future developments and the use of this data to artificial intelligence and automated decision-making. Technics Überwachungsvereine, or TÜVs, are German organizations that regularly test and examine technological systems to try to find and eliminate dangers as technology develops. In contrast, the United States focuses a great deal more on liability mechanisms and post-event lawsuits to address safety and security concerns. These different approaches consider not only the diverse legal and regulatory systems and political philosophies of other nations, but also the manner in which those nations balance concerns about personal freedom, security, and safety with the significance of the technology sector’s rapid development. Regulations sometimes follow years or even decades behind the technology they are intended to oversee, with governance improvements typically moving considerably more slowly than technological advancements.
A wide range of international and nongovernmental organizations, such as the International Telecommunication Union and the International Organization for Standardization, also contribute to the process of creating standards, laws, and norms for new technologies in addition to this diverse array of national regulatory approaches. These international and non-governmental players are particularly significant in the effort to establish proper limits for governments using emerging technology as tools of state control.
Technology companies and designers are facing more criticism at the same time as legislators are being scrutinized for their choices about technology regulation and when and how to use technologies like face recognition. Technologists are under increasing pressure to evaluate the effects of their decisions early in the design process due to the growing realization that technology design can have far-reaching social and political ramifications (Vincent 1993; Winner 1980). The debate on these issues dates back to the 1970s, but the question of how technologists should incorporate these social dimensions into their design and development processes is still relevant today because so many purportedly systematic mechanisms for evaluating the effects of new technologies in the public and private sectors are essentially symbolic, bureaucratic processes that have little actual weight or influence.
Technologists frequently blame governments and legislators for solving societal issues that their inventions have inadvertently made worse or are unable to handle themselves, preferring to focus on these issues alone (Zuckerberg 2019). However, governments frequently lack motivation to work in this field. This is due to a number of factors, including the difficulty of establishing clear standards and regulations for a rapidly changing technological environment, the difficulty of enforcing existing regulations, the fact that the tech sector employs large numbers of people and generates significant income for many nations, and the possibility of losing these advantages if regulations burden businesses excessively. This suggests that in addition to stronger incentives and rules for both public and private sector organizations, new channels are required so that individuals with a broader range of experiences and knowledge may influence and evaluate the technology development and design process. Who is in charge of foreseeing, assessing, and minimizing the effects of technologies while they are being created, if we wish to build with them in mind? It will also be necessary to teach policymakers the analytical and technical skills necessary to interact with technologists more completely and comprehend the consequences of their choices in order to involve them in that process in a more meaningful way. Regulators worldwide have started to wonder if some of these companies have grown so strong that they are breaking antitrust laws, but it can be challenging for governments to pinpoint the precise violations, particularly in an industry where the biggest players frequently offer free services to their clients. Additionally, nations themselves frequently use the platforms and services created by internet corporations most dangerously and powerfully for large-scale disinformation campaigns aimed at achieving political goals, rather than the private sector’s inventors and operators (Nye 2018).
Due to their international operations, the biggest private companies in the IT industry are frequently in a better position than particular governments or regulatory agencies to bring about global changes to the technology ecosystem, posing new difficulties for established hierarchies and governance frameworks. Supervising government technology usage can be difficult, but it can also be difficult to keep an eye on the largest tech businesses, which have more resources, influence, and power than many whole countries. These difficulties have been exacerbated by the emergence of network organizational structures and the expanding gig economy, which makes it more difficult for regulators to adequately address the scope of these businesses’ activities (Powell 1990). This picture is further complicated by the emerging private-public partnerships in the fields of energy, transportation, medicine, and cyber technologies, which are blurring the boundaries between the public and private sectors and posing important questions about their respective roles in providing security, critical infrastructure, and healthcare. What kind of influence do private tech businesses have over regulators, and how can and should they be managed in these many sectors? What are the possible unintended effects of various policy initiatives targeted at technological innovation, and how practical are they?
In recent years, tensions between nations have also greatly permeated the private sector. This is most evident in the US-China dispute over which technologies developed in each nation will be accepted by the other and which will be bought by customers outside of those two nations. Do the governments that are already leading this industry continue to dominate, or does the globalization of technology encourage more innovation in nations with smaller tech markets? In light of these national contests, how can research universities sustain international partnerships and research communities, and what part does government investment in research and development play in promoting innovation both domestically and globally? How can intellectual property rights be upheld internationally, and how can they change to accommodate the needs of the technology sector? Sometimes, it seems as though these international disputes cast doubt on the viability of really global networks and technologies, which function globally via standardized design elements and protocols. When it comes to resolving the issues that cause the most tension and disagreement among nations, organizations such as the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Organization for Standardization, and many others have tried for years to harmonize these policies and protocols across different countries, but to little avail. Governments still find it difficult to come to consensus not only on the norms themselves but also on the proper venue and procedures for their development. This is because technology needs to function in a global environment, which calls for much greater levels of international coordination and the development of common standards and norms. Is it feasible to sustain an international network such as the internet or encourage the global dissemination of novel technologies to tackle sustainability issues in the absence of increased global collaboration? What should be done to encourage such collaboration going forward, and how can new processes and institutions for global technology governance be designed? Why has the culture of self-regulation in the internet industry endured? Do the conventional forces shaping public policy, such as path dependence and the politics of harmonization, still adequately account for the results of these policies? How and when do new technologies and their applications generate forces of change from unexpected areas as they disperse unevenly over the world? These are a few of the topics we want to cover in the area of technology and global change through articles that explore fresh angles on the worldwide scene of creating, implementing, testing, and evaluating new technologies in order to address the most pressing issues facing humanity. Knowledge from a variety of disciplines, including engineering, computer science, sociology, political science, economics, and history, must be synthesized in order to fully comprehend these processes. Understanding the technologies themselves in all their richness and complexity—how they operate, the boundaries of what they can accomplish, what they were intended to do, and how they are actually used—is essential to understanding how technology has influenced global change and, in turn, how global changes have influenced the development of new technologies. The complexity of technologies is increasing, as are their interactions and integrations with the broader social, political, and legal frameworks in which they are used. We invite academics from various fields to work with us to unravel such difficulties.
Josephine Wolff teaches cyber security policy as an associate professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. 2018 saw the publication by MIT Press of her book You’ll See This Message When It Is Too Late: The Legal and Economic Aftermath of Cyber Security Breaches.
These days, technology permeates every aspect of our lives. We rely significantly on this technology,…
Might it be said that you are fed up with working extended periods despite everything…