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In Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Peter Parker’s uncle spoke famous the quote, “with great power comes great responsibility”. The world today is witnessing disruptive technologies and they conceivably have the most powerful sources in the business world.

Technology has radically evolved over the last three decades, positively refining the lives of countless people all over the world. This is seen through the evolution of smart phones, fitness tracking devices, the Apple Watch, drones, augmented reality, artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, robotics, cyber security, and many other breakthroughs.

However, even with such astounding technological advancements, there are unintended or unanticipated uses of the technology that are often overlooked or not anticipated. A prime recent example was the Fitness tracking app, Strava, which unintendedly gave away the location of secret US army bases and spy locations around the world. Another was the hacking of the US Political system during the most recent election.

With every hi-tech innovation, there are corresponding drawbacks that should be better scrutinized. The governance, health, safety, environmental and reputational issues associated with their use are evolving very quickly. There is a growing bold idea that these tech companies have experts in the boardroom or advisors who can help them better understand and consider potential downstream implications.

Technology and Its Repercussions

Yaël Eisenstat, founder of Kilele Global, is an expert on thinking strategically about the misuse of disruptive technology. As a former CIA Officer, former national security advisor to Vice President Biden and Adjunct professor at NYU Center for Global Affairs she has lived and breathed this her entire career. Bold Business recently sat down with her and obtained an exclusive interview.

Yael Eisenstat Social Responsibility in Emerging Technologies

“We are all recognizing right now that we are gonna have to stand up and start thinking more seriously about what are the ethics of how we use the online world,” Eisenstat said.

As a company that helps provide strategic advice for various organizations, Kilele Global assesses how these companies can smartly operate. Through that lens, Eisenstat explained, “There’s no way that we can tackle the cyberspace. And I don’t necessarily just mean cybersecurity,” she expounded. “I mean whether it’s outside influencers trying to hack into our political system as we saw last year. Or whether it’s just bad actors trying to create chaos and sow division.”

In the same way that pieces of information can be accessed practically anywhere by nearly anyone with an internet connection, both good and bad results can occur. Unfortunately, reports of data breach are becoming more and more common. One of the most widespread data breach issues occurring all over the world is voter data breach.

Because of such statistics, companies today invest heavily in information security technologies – both software and hardware. Gartner released a report saying the predicted worldwide spending on information security may reach up to $93 billion in 2018 alone, which is an increase of 7% from last year.

Companies today either develop on their own or outsource development of inventions involving artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), digital, and any other technological advancements to help advance their businesses. However, too often they forget that they also need to consider the potential implications of possible security issues and unintended misuse of these products, including cyber security and theft, terrorism, and other negative uses.

For example, in lieu of human action, attackers use AI because they do a much quicker job than counterattacking human cyber security system. As a self-learning technology, AI can exploit other vulnerabilities on its own without the need for human intervention or instruction. As such, cybersecurity experts may have a challenging time countering and keeping up with these malicious AI-enabled attacks.

Exponential technologies are invincible, however not infallible. Organizations have to find a way to apply these technologies without risking concerns of safety, security, privacy, compliance and quality.

An article recently published in Deloitte Consulting articulated the position well.  “As strategic discussions increasingly focus on how business can evolve and capitalize on new innovation, it is important to recognize the enhanced role companies should play in the responsible use of disruptive technologies,” it said.

Our Responsibility

One of the best ways to counter and preempt such potentially destructive usages would be to have experts become advisors – former military or even former government employees with high security clearance levels, are great places to start. This is especially true for smaller companies and startups as they are often the easiest to target when it comes to security breaches.

“I was just at a summit where a bunch of frontrunners in the AI industry sat around and talked about building a code of ethics and really figuring out how do we ensure these things are not exploited for bad?” she told Bold Business. “Regardless, there’s always gonna be bad actors. You create a code of ethics that, without question, is gonna be a voluntary principle. Just like the voluntary principles for human rights that have been created. By being able to publicly say my company signed on to these voluntary principles of ethics of how we’re gonna use AI, that to me is a bold idea.”

There are always two sides of a story. For every great new technology, there is always a way to outsmart it or use it in a negative manner. As creators of brilliant inventions, innovations, and tech, today’s businesses and innovators should always consider having a form of social responsibility so as to prevent such terrible, unethical use of ideas they intended for positive purposes. These technologies have the capacity to attract top talents, build markets and drive adoption, so it is a significant role for organizations to ensure that technologies also create a positive social impact.

This is an important discussion with Bold implications, and Bold Business will continue to track this topic.

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