In a recent meeting with a long-standing client, we found ourselves over lunch discussing the huge importance of balancing ethical decisions, considering others, the environment and wider society when implementing ground breaking technologies.
You see, for technology companies, ourselves included creating immersive content and experiences, consideration of ethical responsibilities is becoming, rightly so, a determining factor for those recruiting a technology consultant. This caused me to inwardly look at my own values, values I hold dear as a business owner, technologist, but also a father, husband, animal lover. We each acquire during our lives values and traits influenced by our peers, up-bringing, faith, education amongst others. Is there a place for these values to be ‘on-show’ when advising organisations regarding new, emerging and immersive technology solutions?
When deploying such technologies, companies must consider issues related to privacy, security and user safety, as well as ensuring that the content they create is inclusive and does not perpetuate harmful stereotypes or discrimination. This in mind I urge them when seeking the services of technology consultant to quiz them in these four areas. Ask, where does your technology consultant stand regarding:
1: Data Use: Technology companies and those creating immersive content and experiences must ensure that their products protect user privacy. This includes not collecting or sharing personal data without explicit consent and implementing robust security measures to protect against data breaches. Companies must also be transparent about their data collection and usage practices and allow users to control their own data.
2: User Safety: Another important responsibility is to ensure that their products and services are safe for users. This includes taking steps to prevent cyber-bullying, harassment and other forms of online abuse, as well as ensuring that the content they create does not depict or promote violence or other harmful behaviour.
3: Inclusivity: An evermore a crucial responsibility. They must strive to create content that is representative of diverse perspectives and experiences and avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes or discrimination. This includes not creating content that is sexist, racist, ableist, or otherwise discriminatory. It is vital also to ensure that their products and services are accessible to people with disabilities. This includes designing products and services that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and which may include utilising accessibility features such as text-to-speech and captioning.
4: Social Impact: This is a big one, perhaps the topic I am quizzed most about, technology companies must have an awareness and take responsible steps to prevent negative impact of their products and services on society. This includes being mindful of how their products and services may be used to spread misinformation or propaganda and taking steps to prevent this from happening.
Immersive technologies really are amongst the most powerful tools bringing many benefits to society. VR, XR, holograms & high interaction content create immersive educational experiences, simulate complex systems and provide new ways for people to communicate and collaborate. They can also be used to create new forms of art and entertainment and to help people with disabilities to overcome barriers to communication and access to information.
I have experienced grown adults moved to tears, uncontrollable laughter, fear or deep inward reflection within minutes of a compelling piece of VR for example
Keeping in mind that these technologies are ever evolving it is essential that organisations choose a responsible and ethical consultant that can help guide them in the right direction.
Therefore, anyone working in an advisory capacity has the great responsibility to their client both in terms of advising cost benefits, increased productivity and inclusion coupled with the greater societal and environmental impacts, it really is important, in my opinion then for consultants to wear their values, their ethics, beliefs and intentions proudly upon their sleeves.
"With great power… comes great responsibility! "
Vincent McAtamney | January 2023
Technology Consultant and Founder of VINTEC Immersive based in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, UK