Technology: Friend or Foe?

Technology: Friend or Foe?

It’s easy to see the world as becoming ever more impersonal. You might have seen that last week Google announced that their AI bot, Google Assistant, has now been programmed to be able to convincingly make phone calls to human beings. If you haven’t already, watch the video where it effortlessly navigates booking a hair appointment for ‘Lisa’, and even as it overcomes the complexities of booking a table at a restaurant – it’s equal parts incredible and terrifying.

With this in mind, and with the automation of many services that once relied on interpersonal relationships, you’d be forgiven for thinking that technology is slowly making human relationships redundant. Or worse, that it’s making us deceitful as we avoid human interaction altogether.

This is certainly the opinion of many pundits following Google’s demonstration of the technology last week. With many claiming that Silicon Valley had ‘lost its humanity’ in the creation of the AI. The ethical implications of being able to hoodwink somebody that they’re talking to a real person when they’re not are obvious, and from the demonstration it wasn’t clear whether this would be made explicit (the humanistic ‘mm-hmms’ and ‘ahhs’ of the robot are spookily lifelike).

Google has since assured the public that they would, of course, ensure that the AI tell the person on the phone that they were talking to a set of algorithms rather than a human being. But the technology itself here isn’t in the ethical shadows. It’s the people and the governance (or lack thereof) around it that is questionable.

It’s a theme we see emerging a lot in the mainstream media of late. With Facebook’s data breach, it wasn’t the technology itself or the data that came under scrutiny it was Mark Zuckerberg and his team. Something we’ve spoken about on One News previously.

This is something we can all be reminded of when dealing with technology. Technology can make us safer, more robust and easier to do business with. It can also make us isolated, disassociated from our fellow man and blinkered to what’s right or wrong. Technology itself isn’t the problem, it’s our attitude to it and our decisions that make it what it is. So let’s make sure we, individually and as a business, use it conscientiously to ensure we can deliver the best quality service to our customers in a responsible way. 

It is in our North Star that one of our five priorities is to ‘digitise and optimise the business’ and it seems fitting that it sits alongside ‘trust our people’. Only through the power of our people can we ensure that we continue to use technology in a way that is secure, responsible and transparent for both our customers and our employees and agents.