Trustworthy technology and technologists are crucial for social harmony, economic prosperity and industry success into the future.
In China the owner of a Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG smashed it up with a golf club in front of the dealership that sold him the car. Another car owner north of Brisbane organised a 52-tonne tank to drive over his Dodge. Last year, a friend of mine bought a new top-end V8 Range Rover Sport packed with computers and sensors. All this cleverness led to major failures. After a year, the dealership wrote that they were none the wiser about the cause.
What ages modern cars is not the odometer reading, but rapidly advancing technology. Soon, autonomous vehicles will go mainstream. Tomorrow’s car will be a room or office in motion. Freed of the process of driving and ownership, passengers can embrace new service-based offerings and move from CAPEX to OPEX. According to a recent study, passengers will use these new services if the technologies can be trusted.
The tech-rich autonomous car is a portend of smart homes. Amazon has teamed with Lennar (a big US home builder) to offer turnkey connected homes. These homes use Alexa for voice control, Sonos for entertainment and Amazon for tech-support. Services like keyless entry, e-keys for friends, on and off-site monitoring and answer the door from anywhere, are simple beginnings. Under the Internet of Things, tech giants will eventually offer supra-operating systems, covering your home, car, computer, phone and appliances.
Small companies, like the Autonomous Travel Suite, plan to use autonomous vehicles as mobile hotel suites. Imagine, touring Australia in a hotel suite on wheels serviced by traditional fixed-place-Hotels? Tomorrow’s transport will search for events and interesting side-trips. Smart people in country towns will write trip software. Your vehicle will upload your wants and download the town’s tailored attractions to make your visit memorable.
The elephant in the room is always technology and critically, the faceless people behind it. It goes beyond whether we trust tech to drive us about – it goes to the very fabric of our society. Do you trust the person in the town writing the local travel software? In the Australian movie, The Cars That Ate Paris, the town survives by causing and living off the proceeds of car accidents. The movie stretches the imagination, but poor programming and malware exists. We do not want our autonomous vehicle driving us up the garden path and home software inviting thieves.
Almost every industry relies on technology to maintain margins, increase productivity and differentiate products. The tech industry is busy innovating to meet these demands and creating new demands. For a fast-evolving industry, speed-to-market is critical and too often, consumers become collateral damage.
Currently, your use of most software is subject to an end user licencing agreements (EULA). By making the use of software conditional on voluntary acceptance of a EULA, liability is effectively transferred from the software supplier to the end-user (Australian Safety Critical Systems Club). The tech-industry can be too clever at avoiding responsibility.
Like my friend with his tech-rich lemon car, the speed of change driven by the tech industry, demands our collective attention. History shows mankind cannot resist new productive technologies, despite opposition, like the luddites destroying machinery in the Industrial Age. The best way forward is to build and strengthen structures that promote professionalism and ethical behavioural and deliver consumer safeguards.
We need to create new ways to speed up our ability to assess the impact of digital disruption. If governments, legal frameworks and social structures remain glued to the Industrial Age, then trust in technology driven change will slow and foster more luddites.
I remain excited about our collective future. If you look at what medicine, science, mining, space exploration, education and other industries have achieved using advanced technology, it is easy to conclude that the tech industry is a force for good, opens new frontiers and solves big problems. Humanities potential has never appeared so limitless. Nevertheless, the tech industry must build trust and community institutions must adapt more quickly. With these changes, we can all prosper and look forward to tomorrow, with confidence.