MODERN PROMETHEUSES: HOW TO PREVENT TECHNOSCEPTICS FROM “USURPING ETHICS”
Is humanity ready for technologies that promise to change the world? How does the people’s trust in innovations grow? These and other issues were discussed on October 21, at the Open Innovations Forum during the Technooptimists Versus Technosceptics: Defining Demand for Innovations discussion sponsored by RVC.
According to RVC and National Project Institute, Russia demonstrates rather a high common level of “technological optimism”. 46% of Russians agree that “Technological solutions may help solve any problems”.
The world is turning into a big network as digitalization goes on. Society keeps adjusting itself to new conditions and is functioning according to new rules, Russian President’s Special Envoy for Digital and Technological Development Dmitry Peskov believes.
“Which factors in Russia speak of the fact that the whole process is more or less successful? I would point out three groups. First – the physical ability to communicate within the Network and its access price. In terms of the Internet price, especially mobile Internet, we steadily rank in the top 5 countries. Second – people’s willingness to trust their money to this communication. Just look at the degree of mobile banking development. Third – willingness to pay fines for the convenience of interaction with the state. If we consider real factors of changing of our consumer habits, we will get quite an optimistic picture”, Peskov said.
Humanity keeps following the path of the progress, and new developments, despite the resistance of technosceptics, become part of our life, BeeLine’s (PAO “VympelCom”) Vice President for Digital Development and New Business George Held is sure.
“We did not exist thirty years ago. Today, all of you use mobile phones. If we take the ethical aspect of innovations, especially in the telecommunication industry, we cannot move forward without such innovations. We will not be able to survive as an industry then”, Held highlighted.
Any technology should be estimated not theoretically but as applicable to real situations involving real people, he added. A chip implanted in your hand will not only make it easier to make payments in shops and restaurants but will also help find a lost child.
Yandex’s Director for Strategic Marketing Andrey Sebrant referred to Premetheus as one of the first technooptimists: “Suppose a fire broke out. Does it mean that Prometheus committed a crime? Does it mean he should not have given fire to people because we see the consequences? This is a general story that we should keep in mind – any new technological innovation may be turned into a “fire” and used against people, out of negligence or malice. “Any” is a very important word here. Unfortunately, the idea that ethics should be an absolute break does not work in real life. We must minimize all risks and think of the long-term effect”.
The fundamental problem is that technoscepticism equates itself with ethics, ABBYY II-evangelist Ival Yamshchikov is sure: «Since when have technosceptics usurped ethics? This is a very wide notion and it can be viewed differently in our society. For example, religion is an ethical issue, there are various religions and we have somehow learned to live and work together. Our average lifespan has grown and keeps growing still. Absolute poverty is reducing. This is all due to technologies. All dangers come from users”. According to him, humanity needs new technologies but the responsibility for innovations lies not with those who introduce them but with those who apply them.
“I do not think it reasonable to say that somewhere in the world there are some people or companies who should be responsible for the happiness of the humanity. I think it is an attempt to represent people as infants that need constant care and attention. It is impossible. Perhaps, it is true that most of us have never grown mature. But it would be silly to lay responsibility for control and decision-making on someone outside. We are just preserving the situation”, RVC General Director Alexander Povalko stressed.
Participants of the discussion summarized that technological development equally needs optimists and pessimists: the former are expected to ask questions and find innovative solutions, while the latter should cast doubt upon them.
The session was also attended by Dean of the Economy Faculty of Moscow State University Alexander Auzan, Deputy Director for Information Transmission Research Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences Mikhail Gelfand, CEA-Saclay Researcher Alexey Grinbaum. RVC Director for Strategic Communications Ekaterina Kumanina acted as moderator.