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We must challenge the irresponsible use of technology that undermines society and democracy. As we move into the new digital industry era, we have the opportunity to change course and usher in a more transparent and democratic era of technology. Global technology governance cannot be achieved by political actors alone.

The mob attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 was a turning point not only in political history, but also in technological governance.

Long before the attack, social media platforms and their algorithms played a central role in amplifying conspiracy theories, false information, hate speech, and demagogy. However, the event in Washington, DC has made it clear that the way we steer, leverage and regulate modern technology has a significant impact on our personal and financial lives. Technology governance is an existential issue for our society and democracy. It is a matter of national and global security, as well as social peace and progress.

In particular, there are three things we have to do. Scrutinize business models and algorithms that amplify extreme perspectives to generate engagement and revenue. Make sure your digital platform is open and drive innovation across your economy. It then determines how much control it is willing to give to autonomous systems and artificial intelligence (AI), and whether humans, not machines, are ultimately responsible and could be held accountable. ..

1. Scrutinize business models that undermine human values ​​and polarize society

When talking about modern technology and digitization, it helps to distinguish between the two big waves. The first big wave started in the 1990s. It brought us smartphones and tablets, always-on internet, easy online shopping, and entertainment. Never before has so many consumers had easy access to so much information. Never before has so many humans been able to take advantage of global opportunities and hear them in the way these technologies allow.

However, the hallmarks of this first wave of digitalization are often caused by problematic business models. Let’s take email, cloud storage, or instant messaging with three examples. These digital services have a direct monetary fee, giving consumers the impression that these services are free. But that’s not the case. Instead of paying for money, users pay for another valuable resource, personal data. And in many cases, users are unaware of what they are doing. In the offline world, water resents if a mail carrier opens and reads our letter before dropping it into our mailbox. The online world seems to forget such basic human values.

You need to challenge a seemingly free business model and make sure that the algorithms are designed based on basic human values ​​such as privacy.

— Jim Hagemann Snabe, Chairman of Siemens AG and AP Moller-Maersk and Co-Chair of the Global Technology Governance Summit

With social media platforms, the problem of free services has become even greater. Algorithms that determine what is displayed on social media are programmed to promote engagement to promote likes, shares, comments, and more. why? Engagement is equal to traffic, equal to data, equal to revenue, and most often equal to big profit.

One of the best ways to create engagement is to amplify the extreme voices found around the political spectrum. As the algorithms are designed to do just that, there is increasing evidence that exorbitantly strong false claims are spreading particularly rapidly in these networks.

Certainly, there was an extreme voice long before social media appeared. But the problem is not their existence. The problem is that social media algorithms are promoting them on a large scale, allowing increasingly extreme positions to be at the center of modern public discourse.

The error in launching a free service has had extreme consequences for society. Fixing this error is probably the most important issue in technology governance today. You need to challenge a seemingly free business model and make sure that the algorithms are designed based on basic human values ​​such as privacy.

Going back to the previous metaphor, the reason I can trust the mail carrier not to open the letter is because I pay the stamps. His presence does not depend on learning and selling my personal information. It is up to us to draw the right conclusions from this simple truth.

2. Create an open platform

The second wave of digitalization and innovation occurred in the early 2010s and accelerated significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This second wave is about industry digitization for digital manufacturing, data-driven healthcare, intelligent buildings, smart cities and more. The risks are even higher than in the first wave, as the digitization of industry affects the infrastructure itself that underpins modern life.

This time, offering a free service in exchange for personal data is not a big deal. After all, industrial systems are not easily persuaded to provide data. However, there are other important challenges for which platform governance is one of them.

Digital platforms are some of the most powerful tools humans have ever built, and they excel at reducing the cost of new technologies. They make the benefits of digitalization available to the masses and globally.

The World Economic Forum was the first forum to draw the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological progress. Policies, norms and regulations cannot keep up with the pace of innovation, and the need to close this gap is increasing.

The Forum established the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network Center in 2017 to prevent new technologies from harming humanity in the future. Headquartered in San Francisco, the network opened centers in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is rapidly establishing affiliate centers operating locally in many countries around the world.

The global network works closely with government, corporate, academia, and civil society partners to create artificial intelligence (AI), self-driving cars, blockchain, data policies, digital trade, drones, the Internet of Things (IoT), and precision. Medical and environmental innovation.

Find out more about the groundbreaking work the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network Center is doing to prepare for the future.

Would you like to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us for information on how to become a member or partner.

So far, there are two main approaches to technology governance. A laissez-faire approach that allows private sector to hyperscale digital platforms. The government controls or closely monitors the platform. Ironically, both lead to similar results. In other words, it is a closed mega platform that allows access to data only on its own terms and concentrates power and wealth.

Different approaches to platforms based on openness, interoperability, decentralization, and data sharing can lead to far better results and far more innovation. It has the potential to promote a decentralized network of innovation that spreads economic benefits far more evenly throughout society.

With a strong industrial tradition and digital manufacturing know-how, Europe can pioneer such a new approach. Launched by Germany and France and supported by an increasing number of European partners, Gaia X is an initiative in this direction.

Gaia X provides a blueprint for federation exchanges between networked platforms. Set strict standards for data protection and data security and use existing standards for data portability. Its main focus is to replace the digital platform gatekeeper model with a shared data model that has equal opportunities for all stakeholders to access and exchange data and innovate at the top. The integrated exchange of such platforms can create a much more equal competition space between companies and promote innovation for start-ups and SMEs.

3. Promote transparency in the use of AI

Another important challenge in the second wave of digitization is to use autonomous systems for the benefit of mankind and ensure that humans can monitor critical systems.

Today, AI is no longer just powering smartphone digital assistants. Rather, the electronic mind is integrated into key aspects of our social and economic life, including healthcare, mobility, buildings and factories. Already today, AI can reduce delays in public transport systems and increase availability. This helps optimize and reduce energy use in buildings and cities. And it can analyze medical scans of our body and assist radiologists in reaching the correct diagnosis.

As Yuval Noah Harari argues, AI could actually replace humans as the smartest algorithm on the planet. It’s a bold statement, but don’t close your eyes. Instead, you need to have a very clear understanding of where you are willing to use AI and how much you are willing to give up control of it.

Intelligent algorithms for consumers have been with us for some time. For example, we recommend movies on streaming platforms and related products when shopping online. These algorithms also affect our lives and society, but so far we haven’t scrutinized them too much.

However, AI is becoming a part of the backbone of the economy and everyday life, such as evaluating mortgage applications, guiding self-driving cars, and recommending medical decisions, so pay much more attention than before. is needed. You need to know exactly where, when, and how AI is used in these contexts. Transparency of results is important here, and the possibility of human intervention and overall responsibility is also important.

Appeal to grassroots

Technology governance is a powerful tool for addressing the key challenges and consequences of the first and second waves of digitalization. But given the rapid pace of innovation, we cannot always govern top-down and fast enough. It also requires bottom-up governance based on a healthy human moral compass.

Launched in 2018, the Tech for Life movement is all about this bottom-up approach. If necessary, it is a code of ethics for the technical community. It’s about practicing values ​​such as purpose, justice, diversity, social responsibility, openness, and trust, wherever you are in the hierarchy. The goal is to encourage all stakeholders to ensure that technology is used in a socially responsible way by walking around wherever we work.

This cultural change, combined with wise technological governance, can lead the rise of modern technology to true success for society, democracy, and humanity. As a moment when things get better, I have the opportunity to remember January 6, 2021. Take this opportunity.

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