It’s easy to approach the future as a race to solve planetary problems like climate change and environmental destabilization that arise from human-actions–fixing the air we breathe, the ground we rely on, the water we depend on, and the myriad planetary systems that intertwine through them.
Yet such a planet-forward perspective runs the risk of discounting the importance of people as creators, inheritors, and beneficiaries of the future. And on its own, it makes it hard to navigate the increasingly complex dynamics between emerging technological capabilities and the futures we aspire to.
So I was delighted to see a decidedly more people-forward perspective on technology and the future in the latest edition of IEEE’s Technology and Society Magazine.
This is a special issue of the magazine that is dedicated to co-designing the future with public interest technology, and it prominently features several researchers and students in the College of Global Futures.
The articles in this special issue emerged from the 2020 International Symposium on Technology And Society (ISTAS20) which was hosted virtually by the college’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS) in November 2020, and co-organized by Roba Abbas, Salah Hamdoun, Jumana Abu-Ghazaleh, Netra Chhetri, Nalini Chhetri, and Katina Michael.
Public Interest Technology, or PIT, is an emerging field that, in the words of an opening editorial to the special edition, “acknowledges that technological potential can be harnessed to satisfy the needs of civil society. In other words, technology can be seen as a public good that can benefit all, through an open democratic system of governance, with open data initiatives, open technologies, and open systems/ecosystems designed for the collective good, as defined by respective communities that will be utilizing them.”
In effect, PIT is front and center of co-designing a vibrant, sustainable and technologically complex future that is people and society-forward.
Reflecting this, articles cover topics that include:
- Meaningful inclusion in technology development (Toby Shulruff);
- Social robotics in an aging world (Jordan Miller, Michael Bernstein and Troy McDaniel);
- The problems associated with approaching the future through the lens of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Chris Barton);
- Engineering and public interest technology (Eric Stribling);
- Big data, AI, and the future of the U.S. intelligence workforce (Kathleen Vogel);
- AI, data rights, and US policy (Elma Hajric);
and much more.
In addition to these articles in the special edition, a good number of College students and researchers presented at ISTAS20, and it’s well worth taking the time to read about their work in the symposium proceedings, or the accompanying program (which includes abstracts).
These present rich pickings for anyone interested in building a future that is not only centered on people and society, but is as inclusive and full of promise as possible, while leveraging our technological abilities for good rather being slaves to them.
It’s also a reflection of just how prominent the College of Global Futures is in the global push to ensure new technologies work for us, and not against us, as we strive to co-design a future that’s better than the past.
The full text of the special edition can be enjoyed here.