Mar 4th 2017

It’s not the CEO’s choices that matter, it’s yours

What is the likelihood that the people building Uber’s self-driving technologies did not know that their software was highly imperfect and could endanger lives if the cars were let loose on public streets? Or that employees of Theranos did not know that their equipment would produce inaccurate diagnostics?

San Francisco has had some close calls with the self-driving Uber vehicles, though no damage has resulted. But Theranos did negatively affect the lives of tens of thousands of people. Should the Uber and Theranos employees who remained silent share the burden of guilt? I would argue that they should and that anyone who stays silent when they see wrongdoing is complicit in the injustice.

I know that I am taking a strong stand, and that employees have to worry about their livelihoods and families; that they may believe that they don’t have the power to change anything, it being the job of the CEO to make the difficult decisions. And, yes, I know that these examples are extreme.

But as technology advances, its reach and power grow exponentially. Even its creators don’t understand the use cases and long-term impacts of their products. What makes it worse is that CEOs are responsible to shareholders and obsess over making money, and workers are responsible to their employers. Who is watching out for humanity itself?

As I explain in my forthcoming book, The Driver in the Driverless Car, technologies are advancing exponentially. Our smartphones are already more powerful than the supercomputers of yesteryear. By 2023, at computers’ present rate of advancement, the iPhone 11 or 12’s ability to process and store information will exceed that of the human brain (I am not kidding).

This growth applies not just to smartphones and PCs but to every technology, including sensors, networks, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and robotics.

We could, within two or three decades, be in an era of abundance, in which we live long and healthy lives, have unlimited clean energy and education, and have our most basic wants and needs met. Because of these advances it is becoming possible to solve the grand challenges of humanity: hunger, disease, education, and energy.

Yet these advances have a potential dark side. As easily as we can edit genes, we can create killer viruses and alter the human germ line. Self-driving cars can bring mobility to the blind, but they can also take lives. And we could lose whatever is left of our privacy as connected devices take over our homes.

This is why we all need to learn to see the big picture and to understand our responsibilities. We need to be aware of our technologies’ potential for misuse and to build safeguards. We need to speak up when we see wrongdoing and to document the risks.

In my free LinkedIn Learning course, I share the key lessons that product managers, developers, and designers must pay attention to, and I explore their roles and responsibilities—for instance, what responsibility Facebook employees have for use of their technologies to spread fake news and disrupt elections.

In The Driver in the Driverless Car, I go much further and discuss why this is the most amazing—and scary—period in human history. I illustrate a broad range of technologies and discuss their value to society and mankind. I ask you to consider whether they have the potential to benefit everyone equally, the balance between their risks and potential rewards, and whether they more strongly promote autonomy or dependence. It is fairness and equality that are at the heart of these questions. Many technologies are going to disrupt present-day industries, causing our lives to change for the better and for the worse. Just one consequence of this will be the loss of tens of millions of jobs. If we manage that loss equitably and ease the transition and pain for the people who are most affected and least prepared, we can get to the utopian world of the TV series Star Trek. The alternative is the dystopia of Hollywood’s Mad Max.

It is the choices we make that will determine the outcome—beginning with the choices we make at work.

The post It’s not the CEO’s choices that matter, it’s yours appeared first on Vivek Wadhwa.




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Sep 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "Over his incredible career, David Attenborough has seen more of earth’s natural wonders than almost anyone. To hear him talk, with such clarity, about how bad things are getting is deeply moving. Scientists have recently demonstrated what would be needed to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. As Attenborough says in the final scene, “What happens next, is up to every one of us”. "
Sep 15th 2020
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Sep 13th 2020
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Sep 12th 2020
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Sep 2nd 2020
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Sep 2nd 2020
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Aug 18th 2020
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Jul 31st 2020
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Jul 4th 2020
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Jun 29th 2020
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Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Ruth Poniarski is a painter and the author of Journey of the Self: Memoir of an Artist (Warren Publishing, 2020), in which she tells the story of her decade long struggle with mental illness, a “spiraling malady” which led her into a “pattern of psychosis”. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Poniarski about her life and work, and how she eventually overcame her demons."
Jun 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I know I’m good in a couple of things, really good in a few things, and that’s enough. My confidence is big enough that I can really let people grow next to me, it’s no problem. I need experts around me. It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you."
Jun 27th 2020
An essay about the "the enormously influential 1940 'Head of Christ' painting by evangelical Warner E. Sallman" pictured below.
Jun 17th 2020
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Jun 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Bonhoeffer’s life holds an important lesson for us today, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof. And simply put it is this: you are called upon; you are called on behalf of your neighbor. When you are called to be responsible that is not an obligation which you can decline, discharge or acquit yourself of – it is an infinite responsibility, a “forever commitment” as Charles Blow recently put it. And we all must be prepared to make any sacrifice necessary when we are called."
Jun 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "People differ substantially in how much they’re affected by experiences in their lives. Some people seem to be more affected by daily stress, or the loss of someone close to them. On the other hand, some people seem to get through the same experiences relatively unscathed. Similarly, some people benefit strongly from counselling, or having a support system of close family and friends. Others seem better able to manage on their own. But understanding why some people are more sensitive than others isn’t just a question of how they were raised, and the experiences they’ve been through. In fact, previous research has found that some people in general seem more sensitive to what they experience – and some are generally less sensitive."
Jun 7th 2020
EXTRACT: " The root causes of anthropogenic climate change – which has led to the endangering of countless species across the globe – cannot be adequately grasped in isolation from the technological application of modern science. While Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was certainly justified in calling upon American legislators to “unite behind the science,” neither can we overlook the culpability of science in bringing about the environmental crisis. "
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The QAnon movement began in 2017 after someone known only as Q posted a series of conspiracy theories about Trump on the internet forum 4chan. QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” OKM is part of a network of independent congregations (or ekklesia) called Home Congregations Worldwide (HCW). The organization’s spiritual adviser is Mark Taylor, a self-proclaimed “Trump Prophet” and QAnon influencer with a large social media following on Twitter and YouTube."