We live in a time of unprecedented technological advancement. New innovations like social media and artificial intelligence have brought many benefits to society, including increased connectivity, greater access to information, and new forms of expression.
However, many of these advancements also have dire consequences.
For example, social media brought immediate connectivity to family and friends. But it also negatively impacted childhood and adolescence, contributed to widespread disinformation, and interfered with free and fair elections.
Artificial intelligence offers massive increases in productivity, expression, and problem-solving. But these capabilities can easily lead to a world with bot-manipulated democracies, massive unemployment, exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations, and a world where no one can tell synthetic media from reality.
Move Fast & Things Break
Technology is advancing exponentially, which makes it harder to address its negative effects.
For years, Silicon Valley has operated with a “move fast and break things” mentality. But as we’ve seen, it’s not just technology that breaks. By the time people understand the negative externalities of a new platform, product, or service, the harms can be difficult to reverse.
In other industries, we have protections against adverse consequences from innovation. For example, governments have strict requirements on developing, testing, and administering new drugs that ensure they’re safe before being publicly available. Unfortunately, we have no such system for technology today.
In the video below, our Co-Founder and Executive Director Tristan Harris explains more about the effects of accelerating technology:
Many of the negative effects of new technology are preventable.
Causing harm to individuals and society is not a “cost of doing business”; we do not need to accept the current, negative effects we are facing. Technologies like social media and artificial intelligence can and should increase our well-being, strengthen our democracies, and improve our shared information environment.
To avoid negative consequences, we must assess technology as a system of incentives and bring stakeholders into the process of creating a more humane future.
Learn more about our approach to solutions and how you can help create positive change.