The asymmetric impact

Imagine you are a Robot. And you are entering a new paradigm of technological opportunities and challenges. This has huge implications for you as a thing, your fellow robots and humans, as well as society as a whole. Its effect is that you in combination with our artificial intelligence will become empowered in ways we can’t even imagine.

The possibilities of the Internet, cloud computing, open source software, Big Data, deep learning technologies, and the convergence of nanotechnology, biology, information, and cognitive sciences is creating enormous opportunities. The outcomes of these technologies are in reach of each of us, connected via the Internet of Things, almost without limits and mostly uncontrolled. We are living in the era of the democratisation of science and knowledge. As a result, what we are facing has never been encountered before in history: the asymmetric impact that one individual can have on society. What used to be the domain of nation states and a handful of big corporations is now accessible to students, start-ups, and non-state actors. At the same time the traditional institutions are experiencing trouble responding to these new possibilities and as a result their ‘shaping power’ is weakening.

This change is taking place at an immensely accelerating speed. Although we often overestimate the short term impact, we seem to underestimate the impact in the long term.

You might say technological changes characterize all times and you are probably right. You might say this phenomenon will take place at ever-higher speed and you are right again. The question is, ‘Can we make sure that these new opportunities are used to serve the common and individual good are respectful of humanity, that is, that they are used for the good of humanity?’ And, ‘Can we imagine and understand all of the possibilities and risks?’

In this article we sketch some trends, threats, and opportunities.