At Telstra’s recent Vantage customer and industry event, I had the privilege to speak on a topic about which I’m very passionate – innovation – specifically, the often unintended consequences of disruptive innovation.
After my keynote I sat down with the event’s host and noted technology enthusiast, Adam Spencer, to talk about some of these patterns of unintended consequences brought about by some of the most exciting and innovative moments of our history. Our conversation is available for download as a podcast from iTunes.
It is remarkably difficult to anticipate the societal changes and the sometimes negative outcomes associated with the many exciting technology breakthroughs of our time. This has been the case over centuries of innovation, from the agricultural revolution, to the printing press right up to the moment Bill Gates decided to include the Start button to Windows 95, triggering the explosive adoption of personal computers in the home and business.
As individuals and companies pursue projects and initiatives intended to improve the overall experience for customers, we seek to take advantage of modern digital techniques that can help us do that. Artificial Intelligence, big data and how we train our machines can have a profound outcome on how societies and individuals benefit – or don’t – from these advances.
Dr. Kate Crawford, a Microsoft researcher wrote a NY Times article last year that highlighted many examples where big data and corresponding algorithms for facial recognition had unconsciously come to represent society’s unconscious bias.
When you take into consideration conscious bias that we build into our machine learning, the growing influence of the Internet of Things and Big Data in our lives, there is no question that technology can have a profound impact on our ability to deliver better outcomes for the human condition.
But at the same time, as innovators, we cannot accept the many benefits that our efforts confer to our customers and to our bottom lines without taking accountability for the full range of resulting consequences.
Unconscious bias can only be overcome with conscious effort. With intentionality. Intentionality needs care, inclusivity needs creativity and leaders that can help navigate society through the perils of unintended consequences.