Tech industry ccan no longer hide behind its ‘wide-eyed and idealistic’ attitude.
Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google and president of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) has said that both the plethora of tech companies he owns, and the tech industry in general, must assume a greater sense of social responsibility for the effects of their work.
The statement forms part of Brin’s first public comments after a recent spate of scandals in the last two year, and raised awareness regarding the misuse of data by digital providers such as Facebook, Uber, AshleyMadison.com, Linked-in and Yahoo, to name a few.
The news was unveiled via Alphabet’s annual shareholder letter, which for the last few years has been signed by Google co-founder Larry Page. This year the letter has been written and signed by Brin.
“We’re in an era of great inspiration and possibility, but with this opportunity comes the need for tremendous thoughtfulness and responsibility as technology is deeply and irrevocably interwoven into our societies”, Brin also quoted and alluded heavily to Charles Dickens’ novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ referring to the famous line, it was “the best of times” and it was “the worst of times”.
Google itself has not been immune, and has come in for criticism and market monopolization over its global web advertising, especially over how much data it keeps on individuals. The company has also come in for scrutiny over its hands-off approach to monitoring the content of YouTube and the way it handles ‘right to be forgotten’ requests.
Understandably, perhaps, Brin did not mention these in his letter to shareholders, and neither did he mention any specifics about just what action is own companies would be taking to assume these greater responsibilities.
Not all bad
In the annual founders’ letter released by Alphabet, Brin touted the far-reaching innovations in artificial intelligence, computing power and speech recognition in recent years. He focused on advances in artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and the future of software that can identify and help cure diseases. “Every month, there are stunning new applications and trans formative new techniques. In this sense, we are truly in a technology renaissance… Advances in artificial intelligence, he stated were the “most significant development in computing in my lifetime…
“While I am optimistic about the potential to bring technology to bear on the greatest problems in the world, we are on a path that we must tread with deep responsibility, care and humility,” he said.
But crucially, Brin also said the tech industry could no longer hide behind its “wide-eyed and idealistic” attitude about the impact of its creations. “There are very legitimate and pertinent issues being raised, across the globe, about the implications and impacts of these advances.”
Quite how Alphabet, or the companies it owns such as Google, YouTube or Waymo will accomplish any of the above, is still anyone’s guess however.