01 Architecture Essays, 02 Leadership Viewpoints

Let’s Adopt the Three Laws of Responsible Technology

We need to adopt them way before we get to Asimov’s robots.

We humans need to adopt them way before we get to Asimov’s robots.

We are driving fast in the car of technology. The road is smooth, and our foot is heavy on the accelerator. We are not braking, and we have no seat belts on.

What do we see up ahead? Boulders are hurtling down the sides of the gorge, shaken loose by the tremors of our approach. We are headed right for them. The most crushing ones will be ecological destruction, inequality and war.

If we don’t take our foot off, press the brakes and put on our restraints, we are heading for a crash, with all of us in the car.

Science is great. We need to keep discovering the nature of the universe, our planet and ourselves. But its application as technologies requires self-control and principles. Otherwise, we will end up as a sterile planet with solely domesticated animals and plants for company. There will be only feral animals and weeds left in the wild. The oceans will be barren. The strains between the haves and have-nots will increase. Wars will go on, if only for survival, with the increasing risk that a few people could kill millions. The grievous combination of our technological power and our adolescent state as a species is abundantly clear.

Every one of us involved in the development and use of technology carries the responsibility of maturity and restraint. 

Therefore, I propose the following 3 Laws of Responsible Technology.

First Law

Technology may not injure the planet or, through inaction, allow the planet to come to harm.

Second Law

Technology must not be used in a manner that creates or increases disparities in opportunity, liberty or equality.

Third Law

Technology must not be applied for violent ends except for self-protection or to serve the First or Second laws.

 We can balance the destructive and constructive powers of our intelligence only by following these universal laws. 

And following them will also preserve the other life forms on this planet, whether our motivation is self-interest, ethical or both.

These laws apply to all technologies, including industrial, biological, agricultural, pharmaceutical, medical, space or information technology. The likes of Microsoft, Google, IBM, Amazon, Facebook, Pfizer, NASA, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are urged to adopt the three laws. If the top ten technology-driven companies in every field accept them, it will reach critical mass.

If you belong to such an organisation and see the same dangers that I do, please share the laws through your networks and become a champion of the 3 Laws of Responsible Technology.

I will gladly update the wording of any of the three to make them tighter and more unambiguous. Please do message me with your suggestions.

Let’s pull humanity back from the impending crash.

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