A robot on display at last month’s CeBit computer fair in Germany. Reader Dr John Ellis argues that Britain needs proper planning to avoid the pitfalls of technology. Photograph: Fabian Bimmer/Reuters
Martha Lane Fox’s views on bringing responsibility to technology are commendable (Technology is a marvel. Now let’s make it moral, 10 April). But I wonder whether politics and capitalism will obstruct socialist and moral decisions, as they have since Asimov first warned of the dangers and set out his three laws of robotics over half a century ago. We have the increasing use of drones in warfare; computers in trading stocks and shares; a trend towards a cashless society where a bank computer would store your e-funds, and commercial giants taking over the web. You might say we now have George Orwell’s 1984, where a large section of the population is spying on the rest.
We certainly need the responsibilities that go with technological freedom. But Lane Fox gives no coherent view as to how to implement these aims, especially as this may have to be retrospective too. I would like nothing better than to see the UK excel in technological prowess, particularly with regard to the benefits to society at large. But this may involve increasing regulations – of the sort that the Brexiters want to put on the bonfire. While Lane Fox extols the virtues of opportunity, we actually need an action plan rather than a list of “could-do’s”. Unfortunately, planning has not been a strong point in the Brexit debate.
Dr John Ellis
To make technology moral we need education for democracy more than digital skills. Automation, innovation and the internet unleash great opportunities for humanity, but they will create social disasters without decent rules to share the gains and minimise the pains. To build technology that is fair, people need a voice in the companies and places where it is developed. Yes, we need digital understanding, but only democratic participation in decision-making will give us more control over our destiny.
Convener, Democracy Matters
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