How The Next Generation Can Impact Future Tech

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Emerging technologies are continuously developing at rapid speeds. Making it possible to collect data, share it, etc. With these possibilities, it’s important to lay the ethical groundwork and to ensure that young people are aware of the importance of maintaining ethics when working with technology. This is especially important because today’s children are tomorrow’s technologists and ethicists. These types of conversations increase the likelihood of future technologies being developed equitably. 

Why is it important to teach children about ethics in technology?

Applications are being tested, products are being built, and data is consistently being collected, but we don’t know by whom and for whom. 

It’s not exactly unheard of for scientists or technologists to go too far or to misuse technology. Situations like this often make headlines and become the topic of discussion within mainstream media. One example of this is the gene-edited “CRISPR babies.” Though scary situations like this aren’t usually the norm, it still proves a point about how people should be paying more attention to advancements in technology, especially students who will be serving as the technologists and ethicists of tomorrow. 

Even though only a small portion of students will go into fields like synthetic biology, access and participation pertaining to emerging technologies should be increased to ensure it represents and works for everyone.  

How can young people learn about ethics and technology?

Schools can begin laying the groundwork by facilitating conversations with students. Educators have a pivotal role when it comes to fostering these types of conversations, with the design methodology in mind. 

The objective of design is to identify challenges and to rapidly come up with solutions and ideas to handle them. For instance, designing a framework allows greater participating by pointing out various entry points, working around technical jargon, as well as building on a sense of participation in evolving technology. Another example would be companies leading by example by making ethical decisions despite it possibly hurting their profit margins, just because it’s in the best interest of the employees, customers or perhaps good for the environment. 

How can we encourage young people to join in the conversation?

The truth is that if we center the conversation around technology, enthusiasts, evangelists, and even skeptics will gladly take part. Unfortunately, this leaves out a large percentage of the population including those who are indifferent, apathetic, or who feel technology is irrelevant to them. 

The same holds true for young people and students. Some of them will be intrigued by this topic, while others won’t have much of an interest. Still, students can become engaged by starting a conversation about the implications of technology. 

They can be given the opportunity to create change or to make an impact on a topic of interest they care about. They can be asked to take part in a design challenge that allows them to navigate layers of opportunity and to determine their role. For example, they can gauge whether they’re interested in crafting a privacy policy, creating novel products with ethics and progression in mind, or perhaps putting together anti-discriminatory datasets.  

Creating opportunities like this are important because it allows younger people to better understand technology, and how they can take part by assisting with the development of well-rounded solutions. These types of processes encourage students to learn the information they need to, as well as their ability to make an impact prior to writing off opportunities or forming unjustified opinions on issues. 

Furthermore, we can get rid of exclusionary jargon and intricate barriers so that students can enter these arenas and ask pertinent questions about whether we are are using technology to the best of its ability, if it ’is ethical, as well as the gains and losses that come from it’s usage. 

How does emerging tech involve everyone?

The range of people impacted continues to expand as new technologies evolve. The truth is that rejecting technology, or remaining ambivalent, doesn’t make you neutral. With emerging tech, comes a sense of inevitability, but also a sense of frustration and resignation as tech is often seen as something “that just happens.” 

Even if there is truth to this, the way technology evolves is not inevitable. If schools make it a priority to teach about ethics in technology, it can instill a sense of agency in children. Everyone is participating in the evolution of technology, regardless of whether they like it or not. Therefore, people might as well build technology that serves everyone. 

Where can young people play a role within this industry?

Design makes it easier to discuss applications involving humans and stakeholders, as opposed to discussing just the technology itself. It allows people to consider why their perspective is just as pivotal as the perspectives of others. 

Creating with technology doesn’t necessarily need to be about coding or gene editing, but rather fostering implications to see real impacts. This might look like creating new systems to create unbiased access, collecting more inclusionary data, creating experiences that are accessible to more users, etc.  

Since the next generation is arguably more diverse, educated, and tolerant than the one before it – it i’s important that design accurately reflects what comes next. Through design, participants can take notice of what trends they see, which systemic issues are present, which products and technologies are used, as well as which data is readily available to address and fix existing problems.  

Young people, especially, should recognize that they do have the power to make a tremendous impact on the future of technology. Therefore it is important that this reality is presented to them. 


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