Big Thoughts, General Technology

Technoethics: A New Frontier for Leadership

Leaders: You understand the value of technology to your organizations. You know technology can be the difference between competitive advantage and irrelevancy. So I’d like to share with you why I am optimistic about the future of technology and why as leaders we need to be concerned too.

Depending on how you slice it, we’re about 40 years into the information age. And what a ride it’s been. Beginning with the miniaturization of processing power, we’ve seen innovation after innovation. Transformation after transformation. Every aspect of our lives have been impacted.

Since the late sixties until today, in regular fashion, the number of transistors on a microchip has doubled every 24 months. As we all know, when you double something each time, the quantity rises exponentially. If you double 4, 4 times, you don’t get sixteen, you get 64. Over the past 40 years, processors have become very fast indeed. And they’ll get faster still.

We have gone from calculators to super-computers, from standalone to networks, from pagers to iPhones. Today we are solving all sorts of difficult problems from building smarter cities to curing diseases. All of these are products of exponential technology innovation.

As we look out to the next 10 years, we will enter uncharted territory. Computing power and capability will be at a point where if we can think it, we may be able to build it. And that’s why I’m optimistic. We’re going to solve the big problems of our day. As leaders, you’ll be a part of that.

But here’s the rub. This is the concern I have. The potential bad news and the challenge we have as leaders. If we can use technology to achieve all manner of outcomes, the question is no longer:

“Can we can do it?” But rather, “Should we do it?”

With great power comes great responsibility. I believe as leaders we’ll soon all enter a period where the ethics of technology will be the dominant technology consideration. We will enter the age of technoethics.

Great leaders will continue to lead in the age of technoethics.

But I’m an optimist. This isn’t really bad news. Technoethics will be a new skill set. An important skill set that we can all learn.

So when the question is asked, “Should we do it?” you’ll know how to help answer that question.

It will be the most important one.

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