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Who will Determine The Future of Good?

As far as we know, everything is firstly divided in two: good and bad, beauty and ugliness, right and wrong... Though there’s no doubt that these concepts bear great significance for human values and, thus, society in general, their dependence on subjectivity requires us to better understand them. One of our long-time clients is manufacturing books and toys for children. During a conversation, I told them I planned to write a feature on benevolence and asked them about their take on the issue. “To me, benevolence is not about us; it is about others,” they said and added an example of “planting a tree, knowing that someone will take respite under its shade.” At that moment, I realised how naive, and essential for humanity benevolence is and, at the same time, how it remains in the background. Our priorities in daily life vary so greatly that sometimes it can be a challenge to even smile at someone. By profession, I exercise deep studies in the fields of technology and the future, and when I think about the years to come, I see that it’s imperative we preserve the fundamental concepts humanity needs. Benevolence is a strategic team in terms of the future. Therefore, its future is important for the sake of humanity’s future.

LEARNING BENEVOLENCE

Though it bears differing meanings in different cultures and beliefs, benevolence, in general, is associated with helping others, doing good for society, and improving people’s lives. Considering how benevolence encompasses goodwill, love, respect, tolerance, empathy, justice, honesty, and responsibility, being benevolent or doing good are revealed to be not as easy as they seem. In the end, it’s believed that benevolence is a learned behaviour, rather than an innate tendency. Learning this behaviour requires both ideal role models and examples, and skills such as showing responsibility to others, communicating effectively, cultivating empathy, and approaching problems with a focus on solving them. Have you ever thought about benevolence being something that we need to learn? Most of us may not have contemplated how much we need benevolence for the good of the world and humanity. Rest assured - tech companies are aware of this need of ours and, thus, almost all of them aim to make the world a better place. They may have set off with this principle in mind, at least on the surface, it’s another topic of discussion whether companies like Meta, Google, Apple or Microsoft have contributed to making the world a better place. It’s not easy to feel assured that the new technologies put forth by these companies worth trillions of dollars are being innovated for the benefit of humanity. Then, we need to seek answers to one question: If people are not internally “programmed” to do good, who will be responsible for the future of benevolence in a world where our digital and virtual versions reign?

ETHICS IN TECHNOLOGY

It’s obvious the impetus of technological developments will only increase in the future. We expect immense developments in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, nuclear energy, space exploration, and quantum computers. It’s inevitable that they, in turn, will result in disruptive innovations. Then, how are we going to carry benevolence with us into such a future? Can technology make us better people? These are questions about “ethics in technology” whose critical importance remains largely unnoticed and under-discussed. Whether technology will make us “better” people is solely about how it’s designed and utilised. If we use technology in goodwill, it can make our lives easier, and facilitate the access to more information, more productive work, and safer communication. These could improve our lives. However, technology can also be misused. For instance, we can use it to lie, manipulate, attack, and take revenge. Such misuse of technology can lead to societal harm and cause conflicts among people. Naturally, this could produce social and political problems as well. Let’s take artificial intelligence which has recently become a hot topic thanks to ChatGPT. The designers and users of artificial intelligence must be aware that artificial intelligence systems need to be designed and used in a way to preserve human rights, liberties, and privacy. For instance, automatic decision-making systems can generate prejudiced results and, thus, result in injustice for people. Another popular topic is robotics. Robots are machines that behave the way they are programmed and are controlled by humans. If robots are programmed to meet humanity’s needs and wishes, they can also do good. For instance, a robot can fulfil the duties of patient care, cleaning, or house chores, and make people’s lives easier. If robots are programmed by people in bad faith, they can also act to cause harm. Besides, some robots, especially in the military, can be utilised in dangerous tasks that could put people’s lives in danger. All in all, whether robots do good or not exclusively depends on how they are designed and used. It all sounds a bit depressing, doesn’t it? Let me give you some examples of “good uses of technology.” Technology can also be developed to provide people with better quality of life such as prosthetics, low-cost health services, food security, and environmental preservation. In fact, good technology is possible from enterprises built to offer access to clean water around the world to those who help impoverished people’s finances with micro-loan opportunities. When we examine these good and bad examples, logic dictates this: We’re at a definitive crossroads. Considering the current situation in which risks and uncertainty are increased in many fields including climate change, rise in population, depletion of natural resources, political instability, technological development, and social inequality, we need to make a decision about which values we will be carrying into the next versions of ourselves, through cause and effect relations. In the imagined future where we can alter our bodies, exist anywhere we want in the version we want, transfer certain feelings, and involve interplanetary travel, some may believe the need for benevolence will become redundant. However, to quote The Little Prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” As long as we can feel, benevolence will shape the future of humanity.

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