Digital Arts Network managing director Stephanie Creasy discusses what keeps her up at night as a part of a new series in conjunction with Tech Futures Lab.
What worries you the most about technology?
The underlying assumption that technological advance is inevitable and good and in the best interest of all humanity (and the planet). The industry is driven by self-fulfilling hype and we are in danger of losing our sense of agency over how technology should and can be shaped to best serve us. I don't believe we are doing enough to really consider the unintended consequences and designing with those in mind. Which makes me sound like a Luddite, I’m not, I just believe in making space to ask good, tough questions of technology advancement.
What excites you the most?
I still believe in the power of connected people enabled through networks.
What’s your scariest prediction for the future?
We will be so busy engaging in personalised virtual realities that we will forget to look at the planet around us. We'll forget how beautiful reality is, and we won't have enough emotional attachment to care about what happens to our planet. Or, we'll just ditch it and go to Mars.
If you could go back in time, what’s one technology advancement you would rave about to your great-grandparents?
Paradoxically, the smartphone.
What do you think New Zealand will look like as a country in 2038?
New Zealand will become an increasingly sought after place to live. It will be busier, more crowded, and more globally connected. We will have high-speed trains between cities and urban centres and people will commute from Northland to Auckland. We will have fully embraced clean tech and we will be leading the world in organic and low-intensity food production. We will have a burgeoning and vibrant technology-focused commercial sector that has resolved how to scale and do business globally.
What’s your social media usage like?
I have a pattern of scanning Facebook/Twitter/Instagram over breakfast and at the end of the day; reasonably contained. If there are large scale global events that happen I get overly obsessed with triangulating information across the various platforms and against mainstream news; truth-seeking!
Do you try limit how much personal information is available about you online?
Yes and no - I'm definitely very conscious about what my content and online behaviour is being used for and I weigh up the value of an online service vs. the data or information I am giving to use it. Services like Linkedin are part of the tools of business and come with an expectation of some form of engagement or presence to get the most out of them. I am more careful about posting about my kids than I used to be; as they have got older and have established their own social profiles I don't feel it's my right to post things about them.
What will be dead in the next five years? (Products, companies, trends, etc)
I have this sense that each new thing is a re-emergence of old ideas; just emerging in new contexts or being mashed up in new ways where they might be able to fly. Instead of answering the question I'll share this great article looking back at 20 years of the Gartner Hype Cycle, proving we are pretty bad at predicting what is going to stick or move forward.
What does your ideal robot look like?
A bot (in the agent definition) which can be given a task (find me flights, aggregate my online shopping, book a calendar appointment with someone) and go off and do it without having to connect 4,000 services together and manually intervene.
Will the robots become sentient and kill us all?
It's definitely possible. After all, aren't robots the next evolution of homo sapiens?
How likely is it that we’re living in a simulation?
How far should we take human enhancement? (Bionic limbs, computer chips in brains, designer babies)
I like the idea of augmentation. But again, there is an incredibly fine line between for good and unethical engineering of outcomes. When you look at things like gene editing the permutations and potential benefits are mindblowing as are the more negative social consequences. When you really dive into it though this is a very long way away from being reality.
What’s the best use of a chatbot you’ve seen?
Honestly, we are at baby stage. I think we have a way to go before I see something with true utility that has been designed elegantly with emotion and personality. Poncho and Replika are interesting with their development of personality, human connection and emotion. Taking this into the robotics space Cynthia Breazeal's work on Social Robotics and Jibo is fascinating.
How would you feel about interacting with a chatbot fuelled by a deceased loved one’s texts and social media posts?
I can see how people might find comfort in this.
What about being a part of a social credit system, Black Mirror style?
Aren't we already? The underlying concept has existed in society well before technology became so prominent. It's foundational in class stratification, in financial, insurance and education systems and those biases are now inherent in the algorithms across all the technology major platforms.
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To read what's keeping other industry folk awake at night, click here.