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Social Impacts of Emerging Technologies




The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents a fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another. It is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances commensurate with those of the first, second, and third industrial revolutions. These advances are merging the physical, digital, and biological worlds in ways that create both huge promise and potential peril – World Economic Forum

What drives Social Change – Society itself or Technology?

The last 10 years, starting from 2011, are designated as the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the post-Internet era, the fuel of social transformation is simply Technology Innovation. Technology Innovation leads to multi-faceted changes, often with unintended social consequences. It is no longer a fight between techno-pessimists and techno-optimists. Technological Citizenship is a modern-day virtue. Technology unburdens modern citizens that leads to happiness.

A technological system or application is rarely having only a technical context. It has huge economic, social, political, even cultural, and organizational impacts. Some of the primary economic characteristics that influence the Innovation Society are emerging differently. Listing down a few.

· Capitalism without Capital · Globalization · Liberalization of markets · Investment in information and management technologies · Investment on innovation · Investment on competencies · Investment in data acquisition for automation · Accumulation of wealth

The technological drivers fuelling the innovation society the most are cloud computing, AI/ML, IoT, 5G, Blockchain, Quantum Computing, and Smart City.


What is falling through the cracks in the innovation society?


Important questions are whether Technology Innovation is driven by goals towards serving humanity or the market or whether the appropriate distribution of wealth generated through technological progress is actually taking place. Policymakers should set up proper governance around emerging technologies to address the following social inequalities of income, generation, place and esteem.


There are a few ethical challenges of emerging technologies.

· For technologies driven by historical data, the unbiased quality of data (gender-inclusive) is a pre-requisite for the fairness of machine intelligence-based decisions.

· There is a need to address the concerns regarding the relationship between knowledge and power and how technological power creates oppressive imbalances in society.

· Developers need to ensure that the privacy and dignity of mankind are safeguarded while applying emerging technologies. Privacy has a bearing on video/image/photo of the individual, personal data, genome/health data, financial data, cell phone location, biometrics, et al.

· Technologists need to uphold, support, and communicate about Sustainability, Environment, and Climate - key factors for a modern society.

With the shifts in the global political scenario, there is a potential threat of misuse of emerging technologies against mankind. The arms race, cyber warfare, the propaganda of disinformation influencing citizens through social media, etc are looming large in front of the world societies. There is a growing concern about weaponization of technology.


What does it mean to democratize technology?


It is not only the legal rights with democracy as exist in the present society. It is the elimination of the digital divide. Not a society with technology haves and technology have-nots. There should be a legal infrastructure around demands and corrective measures on technological controversies.

Responsibility of technology should shift for the human and environment, not only for power and profit. The technology society should stand by human rights and dignity, and support the physical and mental health of humans.


What does the future of jobs look like?


In an information society or knowledge economy, the majority of jobs are based on Information Technology or knowledge-based. Efficiency in labour is the key factor influencing future jobs. Repetitive tasks are getting automated with technologies like Robotic Process Automation or AI/ML. It creates a skewed unpredictable relationship between technology and wages, with probable job losses if retraining of skills is not taken care of.

Mostly the tasks that do not need cognitive skills along with emotional dexterity are more vulnerable to automation. Depending on the value alignment of the tasks with the strategic value of the organization, the tasks are earmarked for automation. The first step of task automation is to deconstruct the job. Analyse for optimization with the use of emerging technologies, and then use appropriate automation technologies.


In the days to come, technologists should collaborate with policymakers emphasizing key factors impacting modern society:


· Equity in the application of technologies

· No weaponization of technology

· Risk analysis of potential technological disasters and failures (like Bhopal Gas Tragedy)

· Legal Infrastructure around the use of emerging technologies

· Robot as a member of the society


Societies strengthened with the power of technology will build better nations and a happy globe.

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