Expanding Information Technology: A boon or bane?

There is a problem which cannot be put off

The proponents and opponents of tech innovation argue about the blessings and harms of the expanded technological advancement in the global arena. From hunter-gatherer societies to modern-day’s post-capitalist societies; the art which has indisputable progress for humanity is the art of technology and change. Technological change provides the economic base and societal revolution in the general. Regardless of unprecedented changes in facets of communications its expansion could turn into cyber warfare, data privacy rights, political malice, and a threat to democracy.

Discussing the inverse logic in the first place; there is not an iota of doubt that expanded information technology has revolutionized the healthcare industry across the globe. The people from Nigeria can connect to New York for medical consultancy with little effort. It has changed the paradigm of the health sector with potential phases. Secondly, in the political arena, the concept of e-governance hasdeveloped. Automation and information technology can be used to collect records and data statistics to make new and efficient policies for the public by using evidence-based policies. Regardless of robust socio-economic and socio-political changes in the structure of society, information technology posited a major setback to the overall growth of society.

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The threat to individual liberty due to mass surveillance is circulated everywhere with the dawn of excessive information technology. People have lost the true independence and liberty to choose and to decide about themselves. Google and media giants have replaced autonomy. The cannibalization of jobs is also a melting point with the advent of information technology. Humans’ cognitive skills are outperformed by artificial intelligence. One of the most lethal problems which are caused by expanded information technology is inequality; the flow of information technology led revenue from the south towards Silicon Valley. All the data of the world is owned by a minute minority which is problematic. A small data elite can capture the entire globe within clicks. The autocratic hold of data by companies can pose a major threat to the independence and rational decision-making of individual as well as collective states. The prior economic inequality was less potent than the subsequent data inequalities between North and South.

Democracy, which is based on the trust factor, is plagued by cyber-attacks and disinformation. Public opinion is engineered in the firms where the analysis of public behaviour through different apps like Candy Crush can be used to mould and shape their opinions of the favourite leader. The democracy which stands over the general will is compromised by manufactured consent. Boot camps and lobbying big data tailor-made the wishes and preferences to make political campaigns for voting and triumphing the preferred members.

The manipulated biases are justified through echo chambering by advertising all the biases and prejudices of humans to confirm their biases for political agendas. Democracy is replaced by populism due to expanded information technology.

Technological advances present significant opportunities for progress and advancement of human beings from nuclear deterrence to communication. But the long-lasting negative consequences are many which proved modern technology a bane rather than a boon. It is high time across the globe to re-consider the ethical side and controlled expansion of information technology before it becomes an uncontrollable fact for human beings to survive and sustain in the 21st century. The balance between expanded technology and human growth should be discerned in contemporary times.

The other side of democracy is based on communication. It was the improved communication in the society that established democratic governance in different parts of the world, but with time, the malfunctioning communication due to a matrix of misinformation can halt the global growth and sustainability of democracy.

Yuval Noah Hariri argued that the biggest threat to the working class is not exploitation but irrelevance, in the 21st century. In the past technology couldn’t replace human intellectual abilities but artificial intelligence can overshadow the cognitive skills of human beings. These cognitive skills were peculiar human traits that empowered them to main positions in companies and firms but the modern expanded technology has outnumbered this peculiar trait. Now robots and automated machines can do a better job of hiring and recruiting people than humans. Due to this reason, humans have become irrelevant with the cannibalization of jobs.

Every decision is made by algorithms which are amoral. Google owns preferences and likes and dislikes mechanisms for humans. It is a big moral dilemma that expanded technology poses to human authority and autonomy. The unique decision-making of humans is replaced by tech-based decision powers. The margin of independent thinking has declined in the 21st Century. It is argued by scholars that the ultimate goal of Google is to outsource every decision of humans to Google.

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Due to expanded technology, multinational companies and firms are becoming stronger and more sovereign than entire states. For example, the Apple Market Value in 2021 was $2274.34 billion and Microsoft’s net worth was $1988.67 billion,   respectively quarter and a third the entire GDP of any nation in Asia. The digital elites have become super humans which is a global threat to governance in third-world countries. The owners of big firms can sabotage and challenge the governance of any small country for the collective goodwill of their companies. State sovereignty has been diluted and replaced due to the more powerful Leviathan traits of big data firms.

The possible remedies to expanded technology are many. The democratization of data is a way forward in which the concentration and autocratic hold of all the data chains can be diluted into different units by breaking up Big Data like Google and Facebook. For example, the Rockefeller Oil Company was diluted into 34 companies when it became a giant holder of all the oil supply in Europe. In the same vein, Big Data can be distributed into different units for democratization purposes. Secondly, strict government regulations and oversight mechanisms can be used to control Artificial Intelligence research. The expansion of IT should be controlled and ethical otherwise it can be a potential threat to humanity.

Modern information technology has changed human lives in general but the flip side of negative outcomes can’t be overlooked. The ethics and innovation should be balanced otherwise the corporations will monopolize all data and algorithms for ulterior motives. Technological advances present significant opportunities for progress and advancement of human beings from nuclear deterrence to communication. But the long-lasting negative consequences are many which proved modern technology a bane rather than a boon. It is high time across the globe to re-consider the ethical side and controlled expansion of information technology before it becomes an uncontrollable fact for human beings to survive and sustain in the 21st century. The balance between expanded technology and human growth should be discerned in contemporary times.

Muhammad Wajahat Sultan
The writer is a transportation engineer with postgraduations in English literature and political science

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