“Ethical Markets thanks NASA Chief Scientist Bushnell for flagging this thoughtful article by Henry Kissinger, on the perils of AI and the digital revolution driven with little ethical or moral guidance toward largely commercial exploitation and instrumental short-term goals. We in the USA de-capitated our capability for deeper assessment of scientific research goals and technological choices in 1996, when the US Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) was shut down by the incoming Republican majority in Congress. In its short tenure from 1974 until 1996, OTA researched all these deeper ethical and philosophical choices in US policies and funding of S&T: from alternative paths for energy, transport, healthcare, education, as well as IT, robotics, and the rise of the digital economy, and how these choices might affect society, the environment and our common future.
Efforts were made, particularly by then Congressman Rush Holt (now President of AAAS) and other to revive and re-fund the still authorized OTA. The highly-skilled technology assessment teams OTA assembled in universities around the country, were scattered to other agencies including the Congressional Research Service (CRS), our national laboratories, the General Accounting Office (GAO), the University of Maryland and other research centers. Luckily all of OTA’s ground-breaking reports on assessing issues from the impacts of climate change, renewable energy choices, technologies for local development, the choices for health, education and economic policies are all freely downloadable from the University of Florida Press.
Kissinger is right that the time is already late for assessing the helter-skelter rush to automation, AI, big data and digitization and how it is affecting our democratic processes, learning modes and obscuring our deeper ethical choices for the future. I served on the OTA Technology Assessment Advisory Council (TAAC) from 1974 until 1980 and Ethical Markets, in partnership with the University of Florida Press has re-published a key 1980 report “Assessing Technology for Local Development” which describes all the local, community-owned wind, solar, energy efficiency, farmers markets , community development alternatives that are flourishing today.
Let’s restore OTA, which has been copied in many OECD countries and bring back its technology assessors to get to work outlining the choices and consequences of our blind commercial rush toward a digital surveillance future that looks ever more like that described by George Orwell in his 1984. It’s almost, but not yet too late!
~Hazel Henderson, Editor“
Philosophically, intellectually—in every way—human society is unprepared for the rise of artificial intelligence.
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