The dilemma of uninventing

If I could be uninventing something, what would that be? Some weapons? Or technologies that have been used for destruction or harmful purposes should be un-invented. Ultimately, the decision of what should be un-invented is a complex ethical issue that would require careful consideration from experts and society as a whole. This basic question resulted me thinking about other ethical dilemmas, that are arisen in the field of technology:

  • Privacy and surveillance: With the increasing amount of data being collected and stored by technology companies and government agencies, there are concerns about how this data is being used and who has access to it. We might remember some of the data scandals.
  • Artificial intelligence and bias: Machine learning algorithms can perpetuate and even amplify biases present in the data used to train them, leading to unfair and discriminatory outcomes. We might remember Microsoft’s bot, which became very quickly extremist 🙁
  • Autonomous weapons: As technology advances, the possibility of fully autonomous weapons raises ethical questions about the responsibility for their actions and the potential for them to cause harm without human oversight.
  • Social media and mental health: The impact of social media and technology on mental health is a growing concern, with studies suggesting that excessive use can lead to depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.
  • Digital divide: Access to technology and the internet is not equal across all segments of society, and this digital divide can exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities.
  • Virtual reality and empathy: Virtual reality technology has the potential to create immersive, realistic experiences that allow people to “step into” someone else’s shoes and gain a deeper understanding of their perspectives. However, there are also concerns that this technology could be used to manipulate people’s emotions and exploit their vulnerability.
  • Biotechnology and genetic engineering: Advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering raise ethical questions about the manipulation of life and the potential consequences for future generations.
  • Internet censorship and freedom of expression: Governments and private companies have the power to censor or restrict access to information on the internet, which raises questions about the limits of free speech and the role of technology in shaping public discourse. This with the political angle, and also with the whole question of where a platform’s responsibilities lies, is a separate area on its own.
  • Cyber warfare and cyber security: As the use of technology becomes increasingly integrated into every aspect of society, the potential for cyber attacks and cyber warfare becomes a growing concern. This raises questions about the ethics of cyber weapons and the responsibility of nation-states and private actors to protect against cyber threats. Finding a 0day, would I sell it to a highest bidder, or would I do the right thing and properly disclose?
  • Human augmentation and transhumanism: Advances in technology are allowing for the enhancement of human physical and cognitive abilities, raising ethical questions about the implications of these enhancements for individuals and society as a whole. What if someone gets an augmentation that gives them a benefit in work, sport, etc?

There are many other ethical dilemmas that are related to technology and its impact on society, and they continue to emerge as technology continues to advance. Me, as part of workstreams focusing on ’emerging technologies’, breaking through the Horizon, feels like I do have a kind of unwritten contract with the rest of humanity to avoid creating something that should be un-invented later on. The main example popping to my mind is the ‘Tesla Death Ray’ (although it did NOT transmit any rays as the energy would have dissipated in the air – it was more like a energy wall, a ‘teleforce’ as he called it).

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