Center for Trustworthy Technology

Fostering Trust in Tech – Reflections for a pivotal year ahead

The panorama of emerging technologies is unveiling itself before the world, not solely as a demonstration of human creativity but as a herald of future opportunities. In 2023 these technologies transcended the confines of laboratories and policy discussions to become an omnipresent aspect of daily life. In 2024, the idea of trustworthy technology has become more critical than ever before.

The year opened with the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where a range of consumer facing products and services utilizing emerging technologies were showcased.[1] CES 2024 was particularly notable for its emphasis on how advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) were catalyzing breakthroughs in various domains. This ranged from AI-powered biotechnology sensors to the interplay of quantum technologies with generative AI. Simultaneously, the Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report, surveying 28 nations, unveiled public perception of emerging technologies.[2] It highlighted a prevalent perception of inadequate management of these technologies. This perception has substantial consequences: communities are increasingly inclined to reject the utilization of these innovations, experience a sense of alienation and being left behind by rapid technological advancements. Recognizing this dual reality of our times is essential: while there is an unprecedented surge in products and services driven by emerging technology, societal trust in these advancements is becoming increasingly precarious. This demands attention, analysis, and action.

Primarily, an unprecedented convergence of various emerging technologies is being witnessed today. In life sciences, Artificial Intelligence is transforming drug discovery into a faster, more efficient process for developing new drugs for a range of medical conditions.[3] AI in 2024 is experiencing a rapid transformation from an observer to a facilitator of automated lab procedures, including becoming an active designer, synthesizer, and tester in moleculer studies,[4] leading to novel workflows. The realm of materials science is unleashing significant breakthroughs with the development of innovative materials, heralding a future of more energy-efficient electronics. Take USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s recent discovery of a novel semiconductor, which holds the potential to usher in an era of energy-efficient computing hardware akin to the human brain’s efficiency.[5]  However, this fusion of technologies is also bringing forth unique challenges. For instance, the healthcare application of AI requires processing vast datasets, including sensitive personal information, raising concerns of malicious use and unauthorized access. Further the concentration of emerging technology competencies in a handful of corporations and even fewer nation-states is exacerbating economic and social inequalities.[6][7]

Secondly, the rise technological prowess is coinciding with heightened global focus on those lagging behind in our development journey. In 2023, the International Telecommunication Union uncovered a pressing global challenge we face today: 2.6 billion individuals are still disconnected from the internet.[8] This disparity not only limits individual and communal growth but also amplifies a sense of alienation and skepticism towards societal structures. Parallelly, emerging technology also has a undeniable potential to elevate community living standards when a concerted effort is directed towards democratizing access to its solutions. For instance, Berkeley Earth’s initiative is working to develop precise, city-specific climate projections for enabling communities to effectively navigate extreme weather events, enhancing their resilience and preparedness.[9] Another successful case study can be found in in Flint, Michigan, where the Chicago Department of Public Health has been deploying machine learning and predictive analytics to identify and prioritize children at-risk of lead poisoning children before exposure, augmenting community health.[10] The considerable potential of emerging technologies to empower is undeniable; however, the lack of global commitment to direct them where they are most needed is giving rise to distrust within society.

Finally, in today’s global context, nation-states are actively engaged in a technological arms race, competing for dominance in economic growth and international acclaim.[11] This competitive landscape leads to a prioritization of ‘strategic’ over ethical and humane considerations, diminishing the public’s trust in the motives behind technological advancements. This approach contrasts with the principles of scientific progress and the overarching aim of global human prosperity. Additionally, as the 2024 election year approaches, concerns regarding AI use in the generation and distribution of disinformation looms. An article in the Scientific American found that AI-generated content is targeting voters daily. This issue is widespread, spanning around fifty nations and across multiple social media platforms.[12] Collaborative efforts and the sharing of scientific knowledge leads to more widespread benefits than isolated endeavors. It is vitally important to transform this competitive realm towards a collaboration oriented towards public interest.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the approach of stakeholders involved in developing emerging technology from glorifying technological advancement for its own sake to strategically mobilizing these advancements towards empowering and elevating communities. It is important to mold these technologies to resolve their unique challenges, ensure equitable access and foster a sense of ownership, and control amongst them.  In this dynamic age, marked by rapid progress, convergence, and intense global competition, the chance to steer these emerging technologies towards the public good is both brief and vital. Committing the year 2024 to nurturing trust in technology represents a pivotal undertaking.

The panorama of emerging technologies is unveiling itself before the world, not solely as a demonstration of human creativity but as a herald of future opportunities. In 2023 these technologies transcended the confines of laboratories and policy discussions to become an omnipresent aspect of daily life. In 2024, the idea of trustworthy technology has become more critical than ever before.

The year opened with the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where a range of consumer facing products and services utilizing emerging technologies were showcased.[1] CES 2024 was particularly notable for its emphasis on how advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) were catalyzing breakthroughs in various domains. This ranged from AI-powered biotechnology sensors to the interplay of quantum technologies with generative AI. Simultaneously, the Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report, surveying 28 nations, unveiled public perception of emerging technologies.[2] It highlighted a prevalent perception of inadequate management of these technologies. This perception has substantial consequences: communities are increasingly inclined to reject the utilization of these innovations, experience a sense of alienation and being left behind by rapid technological advancements. Recognizing this dual reality of our times is essential: while there is an unprecedented surge in products and services driven by emerging technology, societal trust in these advancements is becoming increasingly precarious. This demands attention, analysis, and action.

Primarily, an unprecedented convergence of various emerging technologies is being witnessed today. In life sciences, Artificial Intelligence is transforming drug discovery into a faster, more efficient process for developing new drugs for a range of medical conditions.[3] AI in 2024 is experiencing a rapid transformation from an observer to a facilitator of automated lab procedures, including becoming an active designer, synthesizer, and tester in moleculer studies,[4] leading to novel workflows. The realm of materials science is unleashing significant breakthroughs with the development of innovative materials, heralding a future of more energy-efficient electronics. Take USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s recent discovery of a novel semiconductor, which holds the potential to usher in an era of energy-efficient computing hardware akin to the human brain’s efficiency.[5]  However, this fusion of technologies is also bringing forth unique challenges. For instance, the healthcare application of AI requires processing vast datasets, including sensitive personal information, raising concerns of malicious use and unauthorized access. Further the concentration of emerging technology competencies in a handful of corporations and even fewer nation-states is exacerbating economic and social inequalities.[6][7]

Secondly, the rise technological prowess is coinciding with heightened global focus on those lagging behind in our development journey. In 2023, the International Telecommunication Union uncovered a pressing global challenge we face today: 2.6 billion individuals are still disconnected from the internet.[8] This disparity not only limits individual and communal growth but also amplifies a sense of alienation and skepticism towards societal structures. Parallelly, emerging technology also has a undeniable potential to elevate community living standards when a concerted effort is directed towards democratizing access to its solutions. For instance, Berkeley Earth’s initiative is working to develop precise, city-specific climate projections for enabling communities to effectively navigate extreme weather events, enhancing their resilience and preparedness.[9] Another successful case study can be found in in Flint, Michigan, where the Chicago Department of Public Health has been deploying machine learning and predictive analytics to identify and prioritize children at-risk of lead poisoning children before exposure, augmenting community health.[10] The considerable potential of emerging technologies to empower is undeniable; however, the lack of global commitment to direct them where they are most needed is giving rise to distrust within society.

Finally, in today’s global context, nation-states are actively engaged in a technological arms race, competing for dominance in economic growth and international acclaim.[11] This competitive landscape leads to a prioritization of ‘strategic’ over ethical and humane considerations, diminishing the public’s trust in the motives behind technological advancements. This approach contrasts with the principles of scientific progress and the overarching aim of global human prosperity. Additionally, as the 2024 election year approaches, concerns regarding AI use in the generation and distribution of disinformation looms. An article in the Scientific American found that AI-generated content is targeting voters daily. This issue is widespread, spanning around fifty nations and across multiple social media platforms.[12] Collaborative efforts and the sharing of scientific knowledge leads to more widespread benefits than isolated endeavors. It is vitally important to transform this competitive realm towards a collaboration oriented towards public interest.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the approach of stakeholders involved in developing emerging technology from glorifying technological advancement for its own sake to strategically mobilizing these advancements towards empowering and elevating communities. It is important to mold these technologies to resolve their unique challenges, ensure equitable access and foster a sense of ownership, and control amongst them.  In this dynamic age, marked by rapid progress, convergence, and intense global competition, the chance to steer these emerging technologies towards the public good is both brief and vital. Committing the year 2024 to nurturing trust in technology represents a pivotal undertaking.

References

1. CES 2024 trends to watch, presented by CTA (no date) All CES 2024 Videos – CES 2024 On Demand. Available at: https://videos.ces.tech/detail/videos/all-ces-2024-videos/video/6344495164112/ces-2024-trends-to-watch-presented-by-cta?autoStart=true

3. A New Frontier for Drug Discovery and Development: Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Technology  Centre For Trustworthy Technology. Available at: https://c4tt.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/A_New_Frontier_for_Drug_Discovery_and_Development.pdf.

5. Materials discovery to enable computers that think more like humans – USC viterbi: School of Engineering, USC Viterbi | School of Engineering. Available at: https://viterbischool.usc.edu/news/2023/11/materials-discovery-to-enable-computers-that-think-more-like-humans/

6. Emerging technology and AI are driving the crisis of widening inequality around the world (2024) Amnesty International USA. Available at: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/global-emerging-technology-ai-driving-crisis-of-widening-inequality/

7. Zia Qureshi, C.W. et al. (2022) Rising inequality: A major issue of Our time, Brookings. Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/articles/rising-inequality-a-major-issue-of-our-time/

9. Berkeley Earth. Available at: https://berkeleyearth.org/

10. Chicago, E.P.U. of et al. Predictive modeling for Public Health: Proceedings of the 21st ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and data mining, ACM Conferences. Available at: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/2783258.2788629

11. Condoleezza Rice Stanford Emerging Technology Review, SETR. Available at: https://setr.stanford.edu/

12. Hu, Charlotte. “How Ai Bots Could Sabotage 2024 Elections around the World.” Scientific American, 20 Feb. 2024, www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-ai-bots-could-sabotage-2024-elections-around-the-world/.

References

1. CES 2024 trends to watch, presented by CTA (no date) All CES 2024 Videos – CES 2024 On Demand. Available at: https://videos.ces.tech/detail/videos/all-ces-2024-videos/video/6344495164112/ces-2024-trends-to-watch-presented-by-cta?autoStart=true

3. A New Frontier for Drug Discovery and Development: Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Technology  Centre For Trustworthy Technology. Available at: https://c4tt.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/A_New_Frontier_for_Drug
_Discovery_and_Development.pdf
.

5. Materials discovery to enable computers that think more like humans – USC viterbi: School of Engineering, USC Viterbi | School of Engineering. Available at: https://viterbischool.usc.edu/news/2023/11/materials-discovery-to-enable-computers-that-think-more-like-humans/

6. Emerging technology and AI are driving the crisis of widening inequality around the world (2024) Amnesty International USA. Available at: https://www.amnestyusa.org/press-releases/global-emerging-technology-ai-driving-crisis-of-widening-inequality/

7. Zia Qureshi, C.W. et al. (2022) Rising inequality: A major issue of Our time, Brookings. Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/articles/rising-inequality-a-major-issue-of-our-time/

9. Berkeley Earth. Available at: https://berkeleyearth.org/

10. Chicago, E.P.U. of et al. Predictive modeling for Public Health: Proceedings of the 21st ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and data mining, ACM Conferences. Available at: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/2783258.2788629

11. Condoleezza Rice Stanford Emerging Technology Review, SETR. Available at: https://setr.stanford.edu/

12. Hu, Charlotte. “How Ai Bots Could Sabotage 2024 Elections around the World.” Scientific American, 20 Feb. 2024, www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-ai-bots-could-sabotage-2024-elections-around-the-world/.

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