The process of evolution made humankind very complicated yet very simple. While we have been evolving, so have our technologies. And even though cognitive technologies are built on human knowledge of thousands of years and today are still powered and controlled by humans, when it comes to wrongdoings, we do tend to blame the technology and its availability. Nevertheless, it is always the human being that pulls the trigger – be that wrongdoing of any kind. This is exactly why it is our responsibility and obligation to start changing the conversations and perspectives around humans and technology. To be able to navigate out of our challenges, we need to step beyond blaming and victimization. We need to dig deeper and understand both the human mind and our technologies and find our global common grounds of morality. Only this is how we will be able to peacefully evolve further, augmented by human-centred to the benefits of the current and coming generations.
Article by Livia Spiesz, SwissCognitive - The Global Hub
Our technologies are getting smarter, making an ever-increasing sense of the data that humanity has created over thousands of years. This empowers us not only being able to start answering to urging global questions but also to become human again – getting away from the repetitive tasks and reuniting with our core human qualities. But what are humans at core? Are all humans driven by the same values and morals? Well, the deeper we dig, the more we realize how complex, yet simple humans are. All thanks to evolution, culture, and the ways how our minds are wired.
«Human complexity, yet simplicity, as well as the differences between cultures, social values and political systems, make it increasingly difficult for us to see anything in the same way, resulting in constant growth in our global moral gap.»
What we consider “right” in some parts of the world, may be completely out of question in other regions – or even in the same region just with a decade of difference. And to make it even more complicated, – regardless of region, culture, social values, and political system – what we consider moral in some situations, we may consider completely immoral in others. There is certainly no black and white, and there is unquestionably always more sides to every story, with only a fine line between right and wrong.
How that relates to Technologies? In a way – very closely. Especially when we consider how it is being perceived and used across the world. These technologies haven’t been around us for a long time. Yet, they are seen and used in polarized ways – leading to an increasing morality gap around the world. At the end of the day, however, it is still the human being that can make a difference to shrink this gap. The question is, how are we going to achieve this, when every day passing by means a widening in our differences? It is a tough question to answer to, but what I know for sure and see in our Global Community that I became part of three years ago, there are an abundance of people globally that want our emerging technologies developing hand in hand with humanity’s best intentions – on common moral grounds. And with that, due to the sharpening polarization between the perception and usage of Technologies, as well as our growing need for it, we have – and must have – enough power together to ensure that these technologies serve our and the coming generations’ best interests. We need to accept; there is no going back – technological evolution is part of the human evolution.
«We need to accept; there is no going back – technological evolution is part of the human evolution.»
Global Morality Gap – Zooming in from a Different Perspective
Before seeing what is happening in the world of our Technologies in terms of the widening global morality gap, let me put the context into another perspective. If we look around, there are many things that on a global level we use and judge in different ways – being that put down to our diversity in cultures, norms, habits, beliefs, circumstances, ethics, psychology, biology… you name it. Let’s take medication as an example. Cannabis, for instance, can be used as a medicine, treating the side effects of patients suffering from HIV, AIDS, cancer, and PTSD, but on the other hand, in most of the countries, it is considered as an illegal drug. In fact, many countries punish involvement with cannabis with prison sentences or even death penalty, such as China, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.
Then lets’ consider nuclear power. It is low-carbon and renewable energy that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions like methane and CO2, and therefore, considered an environmentally friendly source of energy. On the other hand, if it is used as weaponry as part of military conflict or political strategy, it causes mass destruction with long-term radiological impact.
What about firearms? What are they? Are they killer weapons or recreational guns? In the States, the rather relaxed law on gun ownership lead to 1.2 guns per person by 2018 and a deadly killing every 15 minutes by 2019. Nevertheless, if we think about it, guns are just objects; they will not hurt or kill anyone without the human being pulling the trigger. On the contrary, Switzerland has 2 million privately owned guns in a nation of 8.3 million people; still the country’s overall murder rate is near zero.
Yet again, how are we going to find common ground of morality, when across the world, and even within the same societies and neighbourhoods we perceive and use things so utterly differently? Only humanity with the process of evolution will be able to answer this question. This, on one side, may leave us overwhelmed and vulnerable with a lot of responsibility to bear, but on the other side, can make us feel empowered with the freedom of choice between right and wrong – if we can ever globally unify these concepts in terms of morality. Nevertheless, bearing all that in mind, it still comes down to the human being, to pull the trigger or not – concerning that not only guns but also drugs, medications, as well as cognitive technologies. The solution lies within our evolution, formed by the changes in our experiences and environments. As time is ticking fast and our challenges are growing rapidly, it is our duty to find the solution not too much in the distant future.
«…it is fundamental to understand the emotions and feelings that trigger humans to “pull the trigger” of any kind of technology resulting in crime.»
Global Morality Gap – Information and Communication Technology
Shifting our attention to today’s technology and its usage, we can see how there too humankind acts out of different perception of morality. Let’s start from the bottom line. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) enables us to collect, process, store, and forward information. With the power of social media, on a personal level, this can be done at a quantity, quality and speed as never before. Even these days, when physical connection across the world is rather limited, it is the human-created technology that enables us to be closer to each other more than ever in the past.
On the contrary, the combination of ICT and social media gives a perfect basis for modern warfare weapons. As a matter of fact, as our digital dependency grows – and especially how it does in 2020 – so does the number of cybercrimes, with an attack taking place worldwide every 39 seconds. We see examples throughout industries and different aspects of our lives, including fake social media accounts to influence Trump’s re-election in 2020 and ransomware attacks in the healthcare industry, such as the one on a German Hospital in September 2020 resulting in the first death of its kind. And even though communication and freedom of are the basis of democracy, humans do turn against humans using technology with the hope to eliminate publicly expressed opposition – resulting, for instance, in the homicide of Jamal Khasoggy by the Saudi Kingdom. In this example, Khasoggy’s and his closest friend’s – Omar Abdulaziz – phone (WhatsApp messages) were hacked by the Israel-based cyber company NSO Group’s Pegasus – a powerful piece of malware designed to spy on its users. The malware was to be for fighting terrorism and crime. In this case, however, it has violated the human rights of dissidents, opposition figures and activists, by selling the software to oppressive regimes – to Saudi Arabia, leading to the killing of Khasoggy.
How far can we stretch the global morality gap before we go too far? Haven’t we actually already stretched it to its limits – or even further? So what is the way forward to find our way back to our core? Has humanity in fact ever been on common grounds when it comes to morality? Are we after the impossible, that with the growth of our global population is, in fact, out of reach and out of question? There is no easy answer or quick-fix to our challenges. Still, as I see and experience it through our Global Network, there is a solution; it lies in mutual understanding and joint forces – both of which on global common grounds.
On the note of common understanding and joint forces, as a matter of example, let’s turn our attention back to the Khasogy case for another minute. I am just wondering, whether we are making the right amount of effort to understand all perspectives before we jump to quick judgements and conclusions regarding technology as well as the humans behind it. I believe, it is fundamental to understand the emotions and feelings that trigger humans to “pull the trigger” of any kind of technology resulting in crime. Regarding Pegasus and the people behind it, was it maybe extortion in forms of bribe, threat or torture? The clarification of this will not change what right and wrong mean on common global grounds, but it will give us understanding of the true challenges that we face – without judging technology or the human being.
«Even these days, when physical connection across the world is rather limited, it is the human-created technology that enables us to be closer to each other more than ever in the past.»
Global Morality Gap – Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence is becoming key in our processes throughout various industries. It started to augment the human mind and even exceed its capabilities and capacities. In 2017, I had no idea what Artificial Intelligence () meant. As a matter of fact, during my interview with Dalith and Andy, I totally avoided the concept of . For some reasons, I still got the job. 😊 But honestly, from a technological perspective, I still have no idea what is. Nonetheless, when over a coffee, some of my friends reveal that they believe means robots and terminators running around us as human-like beings, overpowering us and taking over our jobs, I have to jump. I have to jump, but not out of joy. I have to jump out of shock, with my curse of knowledge cognitive bias kicking in.
Being on the Highway with SwissCognitive for over three years now has presented me with the hands-on usage of from various industries. Talking to my friends and seeing some of the interactions between SwissCognitive’s ½ million online followers, I recognize, many people are not aware of how much this incredible technology is around us serving us to our best advantage. To put it into a clearer perspective, let me list some of the examples, picked from our partner organizations based only in Switzerland.
The Swiss Railway company, SBB, that transports over 1,32 million passengers a day (pre-Corona times), uses to ensure that it transits people safely and punctually without bottlenecks and accidents. ABB, a pioneering global technology leader, headquartered in Switzerland, uses to revolutionize its energy management to predict and eliminate unplanned peaks in power consumption. Novartis, a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company, with the collaboration of Microsoft, is using to eliminate leprosy around the world, that 2-3 million people still live with in 2020. Johnson & Johnson is using to minimize the length of drug discovery that otherwise could take ten years. The Swiss media group, Ringier, uses to generate revenue and boost reader engagement. The Swiss Post uses to manage and process its daily millions of documents. CCV uses “mindreading” to underpin its marketing processes. Japan Tobacco International with the collaboration of Deloitte is using in its technology to enable POS owners in Bolivia to refill the stocks of cigarettes from their mobile, in one click. Migros Bank has implemented into their processes to increase translation efficiency of its documents. Annannow is supporting its “anything-home-delivered” within 60 minutes with the use of technology. And these are only a handful of examples coming only from the Swiss ecosystem!
«It has and always will come down to humankind on a global common morality ground to join forces across political forces, research, academia, business and society, with the goal to develop and use technologies to our best advantage.»
So what is the downside? Not surprisingly, the fact that there are almost always two sides to the coin. Focusing on the cyber world for now, on one hand, supports security tools that identify potential threats before they occur. Due to the overwhelming scale and not enough available human resources, it also helps to combat modern slavery, including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and forced labour. It provides us with a tool to detect fake news that would otherwise result in the unrest of groups and societies – all just based on fake statements.
On the contrary, this very same technology is also used by attackers – bypassing and dismantling cyber-security systems faster than most prevention and detection tools can keep up. In fact, cybercrime goes into many directions, such as phishing, identity fraud, malware attack, theft of payment data, cyberextortion, and cyberespionage. The scale varies between personal to regional levels. Having most of our lives connected to the online world, there is almost no exception to areas in our lives and businesses which cannot be brought under threat. With the systems becoming increasingly sophisticated and devious, we may be running out of the talent that can fight it, which could lead us to an online world where machines fight against machines.
Global Common Grounds – The Way Forward
The diversity of the factors that influences humans’ decision around turning anything into their best friend or worse enemy is extensive. Nonetheless, crime and wrongdoing have always existed and they always will – we would be too naïve to think otherwise. However, before despising technology or the human being, we ought to understand the motive and source behind the wrongdoing. Understanding can lead us to reasons and therefore, solutions that can systematically reduce the frequency and severity of the misconduct. It has and always will come down to humankind on a global common morality ground to join forces across political forces, research, academia, business and society, with the goal to develop and use technologies to our best advantage.
Background Research / Inspiration
BBC News (2020), Jamal Khasoggi: Journalist’s fiancee sues Saudi crown prince. LINK
Fogel, B., (2020), The Dissident, Documentary. LINK
Eugenio W. V. (2020). Gun Violence in America: A State-by-State Analysis. Center for American Progress. LINK
Hart, C. (¨2015). Let’s quit abusing drug users. TEDMED Talk. LINK
ICT4peace, Jamal Khassogi – Two Years Later – Zurich Film Festival Talks. LINK to recordings
Ikeda S. (2020). Ransomware Attack at German Hospital Responsible for First Documented Death. CPO Magazine. LINK
Lederer, E. M. (2020). Top UN official warns cybercrime on rise in pandemic. Boston. LINK
Milkovich D., (2020), 15 Alarming Cyber Security Facts and Stats. LINK
Orlowski, J., (2020), The Social Dilemma, Documentary
The Local (2020), EXPLAINED: Understanding Switzerland’s obsession with gun. LINK
Unwin, J., ( 2019), Nuclear power: The pros and cons of the energy source. LINK
Walsh N. (2020) Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Crime: online abuse material increasing substantially due to Covid-19 lockdown measures. Podcast by Nick Kelly. LINK
ZFF, Zurich Film Festival Talks. Jamal Khassogi – Two Years Later. LINK to event