The Internet is arguably the most pervasive and dominant underlying aspect of our lives today, enabling the unleashing of technology sets that connect, enable collaboration and conversations, facilitate real time experience sharing, driver knowledge and much more, paving the way for new business models, innovation, healthcare advancements, borderless education, and other critical solutions that enhance the human experience. And there is more. The internet supports transmissions that allow connected devices to issue, and respond to sophisticated commands that go beyond remote activation etc. We are approaching the age of Pervasive Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Concepts that will redefine our relationship with technology.
Automation introduces efficiency. This translates into faster production turnaround, better precision, robust customer interface and support services amongst other key benefits. Entire organizational processes are automated to cater for all facets of the business, gather internal and external data for analytics, ensure compliance and meet extensive array of business parameters and objectives that are critical for survival and leadership today. Cloud models are helping to accelerate this adoption across larges and small enterprises, by arguing better economics, aggregated security (though some point to aggregated risk as well), and human resource/ infrastructure conservation and savings.
The benefits are numerous, as are the risk points to consider and weigh up. In fact, some of these will be the focus of Comnavig's, what's in the cloud Masterclass for Technology and Risk Managers later this month. That said, we could safely conclude that the Internet allows us to extend the magic of technology and its many smart tricks, across geographical boundaries, and that global reach brings boundless opportunities and introduces new realities that need to be considered.
First, when do the lines between technology efficiency and human displacement become a socio economic problem? There are those who posit that technology will free up human time and resource for better utilisation in other productive endeavours that require human hands and brains. There are those concerned that technology will replace humans since virtually every human effort can be relocated in the realm of robotics technology, and the only winners will be those involved in the technology value chain, and not the people displaced. In a sense, they believe that technology will only expand the economic gaps that are already too wide in many societies, as organizations compete to earn returns for their shareholders. At what point does technology begin to displace humans in terms of economic relevance and engagement?
Besides economics, the social implications may are already becoming manifest with people - especially the younger generation seemingly losing social interaction skills - proper writing skills, and other important human interaction development steps, as technology increasingly seeks to replace human contact, making the emphasis on face to face interaction remote. On the upside, technology bridges physical gaps using voice and multimedia technologies to connect people who would otherwise be disconnected. Perhaps a prudent approach is every society to define its own priorities and LEAD technology to achieve desired socio economic outcomes, not be led by technology.
The biggest and perhaps most cross cutting consideration though - and i suspect many will agree - is the ability of technology to facilitate non-proximate crime. Beyond financial crimes, we have seen hacking to interfere with elections (remember that INEC website was temporarily hijacked even during 2015 elections in Nigeria with potentially dangerous implications), and other variants of disruptiveness. Ransomware is becoming common threatening to wipe out entire business digital assets and records. The potential for remote takeover of advanced weapon systems or control technologies like power grids, street light systems, airport control tower systems, etc; makes one shiver with fear. The potential of a terrorist in one country hacking into an autonomous car network and sending all the cars into packed streets must concern the designers of driverless cars.
Many though will argue that it is the HUMAN being that is the issue, not the weapons or objects that can be weaponized. And there is great merit in this view; afterall there are enough kitchen knives available to inflict huge damage (as we saw in London only recently). However, defensive stratagems must be built into progressive technology advancements, to ensure they are not used for evil and can be controlled should the need arise. The Internet today, has served as a critical platform to terrorist communications, recruitment, knowledge and ideology dissemination and as we have seen may have dark sides that are out of control allowing a potentially deadly layer of criminality to thrive.
The fact is that as we live in an increasingly technology driven world where we are also deliberately ceding aspects of normal cultural, social, security, physical and even spiritual activity to technology. We therefore need to consider and understand the implications of empowering our creations to think on our behalf. More critically, the world is faced with rapid degradation of morality and an expansion of risk occasioned by criminal endeavor. As we impart technology skills we need to understand that there is perhaps a more important role in embedding ethical construct in practitioners, and developing a global framework for monitoring what the talented people in the sector are doing. Unlike guns that have to be obtained following a stringent process (at least in most jurisdictions), coding skills, network security understanding etc; can be gained by people online.
We may witness and even invest in the weaponisation of an entire generation with potent skills that will have negative outcomes on the long run, as the emphasis moves to low level and high level cybercrime, if we do not deepen the economic discourse and figure out ways to achieve social and economic rebalancing in societies with huge exclusion gaps, and corresponding appetites for material wealth and acquisition.
The young developer faced with unrealistic rent prices, unsustainable power, expensive mobility, expenditure, expensive internet access, brutalization of his sense of justice, exposure to brazen corruption, social exclusion on account of financial status, desires of the material world, and all the factors that breed the crime we see today, may become a disruptive element armed with deadly knowledge, rather than an asset to development.