DUBAI: Digital technology and communication represent opportunities to improve living standards and advance economic growth, but they also potentially present a threat to established social systems and governance, according to several experts at the World Government Summit in Dubai.
Karuna Gopal, president of the Foundation for Futuristic Cities, said that “smart living” should not be about automated homes or robots serving breakfast, but “giving quality of life to the poorest of the poor, and infusing quality into everybody’s life.”
But, she added, “technology is a double-edged sword. It can lead you into a ‘cognitive cloud’ which destroys your powers of discretion.”
The risks of advanced technology were raised by many of the participants in a session devoted to smart cities, innovation and technology. Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN Development Program, said that technology and innovation were making governments better because they enabled citizens to participate more in decision-making.
But he warned against the concentration of power in a few private technology companies: “It is not a desirable outcome for ten companies to control all the data.”
That was echoed by Francis Fukyama, futurist academic and best-selling author, in a separate session entitled “The future of global governance and net states.”
He said: “The five big tech companies — Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon — are all American. They provide world services but they’re territorially based in the USA ... They are global utilities that have to be regulated, and that will become an issue.”
Hussein Lootah, director general of Dubai Municipality, also highlighted the issue of access to information held outside national boundaries:
“We wish to have information attained and sought by any way that is proper. The most important challenge with artificial intelligence is the future of humanity. Countries and cities have to be ready for the changes ahead.”