In order to do this companies must focus on designing products and services to meet critical society needs, versus designing technology for technology’s sake. Designing products and services with a more complete understanding of the potential impact on human-lives and making those innovations more widely accessible, will enable technology companies to address the externalities posed by commercial endeavors.
Technological innovation has enabled radical new medical services, deeper insights into personal care and improved emergency relief services. And yet, several studies indicate indicate that tilting our heads forward to gaze into our phones is putting an average of 60 pounds of pressure on our necks, causing pain and misalignment in addition to eye strain. What then is the role of a phone company in addressing the various health concerns raised by the proliferation of their devices? Beyond our physical health, technology impacts our emotional and social health as well. For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned about the potential for negative effects of social media in young kids and teens.
One of the most media-frenzied debates surrounding technological innovation concerns the impact on jobs and future labor from automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Between 2000 and 2010, 5.6 million US manufacturing jobs were lost and it is estimated that up to 85% of them were automated, not outsourced. While estimates range, according to one study, 47% of US jobs could be automated within 20 years. Conversely, a handful of modern studies have noted that there’s often a positive relationship between new technology and increasing employment—in manufacturing firms, across all sectors, and specifically in firms that adopted computers.
Though the debates themselves rage on, the expectation that technology companies address these concerns is likely to grow as the collection of improved data allow us to better understand the real impacts of technological development and innovation.
The sector needs to look beyond energy, towards human rights and labour conditions in supply chains and the growing issue of e-waste, for a more complete approach towards sustainability.