What Are Some Concerns When it Comes to Innovations

By: First Union


What Are Some Concerns When it Comes to Innovations

While innovation in many ways is certainly a good thing, there are some concerns when it comes to how far science and technology have come and consequently, where they are going. Particularly worrisome to many is how scientific and technological innovations are shaping areas of human dominion.

Studies recently conducted by several organizations to include the Pew Research Center, point to Americans' overriding concern with artificial intelligence and bioengineering in terms of the impact that such innovations will ultimately have on society. Many are nervous about how such advancements will affect human capabilities. The question is what type of influence will this outlook have when it comes to the adoption of such technologies and shaping the policy which pertains to them.

What kinds of concerns do people have as far as science and technology go…When asked for example about brain implants to enhance our cognitive abilities, people, without question, had concerns regarding the potential for someone to "hack' into someone else's mind and thereby gain control of that person's brain functions. Another such survey asked people about cars that drive themselves. Many were quite apprehensive about the possibility of accidents, fatalities and safety issues in general.

The Newness of Emergent Technologies

Experts say that one of the driving factors in terms of people's fear of these technologies relates to their unfamiliarity with them. Much of what has been developed is relatively new, at least new to the public, and because of this, that public understandably has some concerns. It thus stands to reason, according to some, that as people get more and more familiar with these innovations in science and tech, they will be more apt to welcome them. This can be seen somewhat when looking at those who are more familiar with some of the emergent technologies versus those who aren't. The former is far more comfortable with, for example, the concept of the driverless car.

Historically speaking there are examples to support this. People have pointed to the introduction of in vitro. Once the public did become familiar with science, it was far more accepting of it. However, on the flip side of that coin, there's also cloning—even though we have more information regarding this process, there's still a great deal of resistance overall.

Based on their findings, the Pew Research Center contends that one of the main reasons people are so fearful about emergent technologies is because of what they foresee as a loss of human agency. The concept of AI is especially troublesome to many—those surveyed have commented that they want to be in control, not the machine. And again, the idea of brain implantation to bring about improved cognitive abilities, led some respondents to comment on the loss of human individuality; they feared a world populated by super-thinking robotic people.

The Pew Research Center did discover that those technologies that let humans stay in charge rather than give more power to machines were more readily accepted. Nearly 90% of those asked said that they would be in favor of driverless cars as long as there was someone directly available to take over in the event of a problem. 85% of people surveyed said that they are for automated work processes as long as those were relegated to jobs that were otherwise dangerous for humans. And nearly 60% said that for recruitment, for example, they were okay with algorithms as long as there was an eventual face to face interview.

When it comes to the sciences, particularly biomedical advancements, those questioned were similarly in favor of new technologies but such that still left humans ultimately in control of the nature of the change enacted. For instance, just over forty percent said that they'd be okay with gene editing for infants to prevent future diseases as long as people were in charge of which diseases were impacted. As far as the brain chip, some did say that if the enhancing effects could be turned on and off, they'd be more accepting of this technology—though almost 50% did say that nothing would make them comfortable with the idea of a brain implant.

What it all does come down to is people's fear about losing free will and giving up control to machines. Whether or not as the technologies become more familiar, people will be more open to them, remains to be seen.

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