1. Healthy Digital Child
The dominant business models both small and big tech companies depend on our constant engagement with devices, platforms and content. The impact on our health and life, and the long-term impact on our communities has to be better understood.
Our kids are real-time guinea pigs for commercial platforms and games, while educators push online learning and bring Your Own Device with no thought of the consequences
This is a pressing issue for parents to manage screen time at home. They struggle to help their children manage their digital lives and understand even the basics of what they are up against. They themselves feel under pressure and overwhelmed by the blurring of work and home life due to digital technology.
While there has been significant focus on cyber-bullying, there are growing concerns about general impacts of hyper connectivity, with linkages to an increase behavioural conditions like ADHD and mental illness including anxiety and depression
Our first step could be to provide greater awareness and exposure to the way computer and online games aimed for children deploy behavioural psychology principles similar to those that gambling addictive for adults. It will include a public health promotion campaign. By understanding both the impacts of hyper-connectivity and the underlying tactics these providers are using, we could create debates that:
- educate the public about technology-driven manipulation techniques,
- empower parents to push back
- invite schools to be more proactive in the interests of students’ health
- and encourage other authorities, including policymakers to do their job to reduce harm.
We will also drive evidence-based critiques of the central role of devices in school education, including the shifting of cost and responsibility from schools to parents and the impacts on education outcomes, equity and inequality
2. Finding the Good Place for Data
Through our interaction with technology we are producing massive troves of highly personal and behavioural data.
This process that has been dubbed ‘surveillance capitalism’, where personal information is seen as a resource that is harvested, packaged, repurposed and then exploited for commercial advantage or national security.
Groups like Digital Rights Watch have been effective in raising awareness of the ways corporations and government are harvesting and using personal information within a personal privacy framework. The CRT will support their important work.
What is currently missing is awareness of the model and a language for both individuals and organisations to determine what is good and what is not OK.
- What does informed user consent look like?
- What is the reference point organisations should use when collecting information
- How should the flow of information be regulated – where are the guard rails? Where are the red lines?
- Can companies and organisations build trust by being better than the minimum?
Ultimately, surveillance capitalism relies on social licence – the public’s preparedness to share; and organisation’s willingness to extract.
Through the CRT there the opportunity to work with companies and organisations who choose to respect the data they collect to create a best practice standard.
3. Engineering Our Future
Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence are driving the next wave of automation. This nascent AI Revolution is potentially our most significant social advance since the advent of agriculture. But this advance contains equal measures of risk and opportunity. Much of the data that is fuelling the AI Revolution has been harvested from people.
When animated by smart algorithms, this data represents a form of ‘stored labour’. The economic value of this stored labour is increasingly being used as a substitute for recurrent human labour – resulting in a widespread labour surplus in our economy.
Additionally, retail, logistics and employment platforms harvest the data and IP of smaller businesses that rely on their network power to reach customers. This allows the platforms to price set and also drive out smaller competitors.
While there is an understandable focus on ‘will machines take my job?’ the broader questions are:
- Who is driving the change?
- Who has a say in the design and introduction of technology?
- How can we encourage AI that makes workers better not redundant? For eg payroll tax v AI tax
Looking at AI as a technology challenge is disempowering and alienating – looking at AI as a political and economic issue through an equality frame bearing s people into this debate.
With the Centre for Future Work we will identify industry partners to deliver deeper understanding of where - and critically how - AI will shape the future of work and impact on livelihoods of millions of people.
In short, we will pose the question: when comes to AI, what is good? … and how do we set up guardrails and red-lines to channel the technology to work in our interests?
4. Rebuilding the Public Sphere
The public sphere is where citizens interact with government, democracy and the fourth estate to imagine and shape the common good.
- It is a place where ideas can be exchanged and truths mediated
- It should be a place where engaged citizens can collaborate with each other.
- It is a place where support and services are offered that help people thrive
The public square is collapsing; declining trust in government and public institutions, the media business model is broken and democracy distorted by the commercial operations of social media platforms.
At the core of these crisis is the impact of digital disruption on industrial age institutions and a failure to imagine the future has left our institutions ill-equipped to serve their function and a preparedness to defer to new technology, rather than think though its impacts critically.
Imagining how this square could work in a digital world requires vision, courage and a willingness to look past the present day.
CRT will run a series of projects that helps build a sense of what a ‘good’ public sphere can look like and how to make it a reality.
- a strong and vibrant media, including an ABC that serves its mission through two-way communication
- a robust and well-regulated electoral system resilient to the fragmentation of social media, where elections are seen as an opportunity to bring people together rather than tear them apart.
- an independent, empowered public sector, us technology to design integrated approaches to service
By reimagining how the media, government and the political process intersect we will run a series of projects that re-imagine what public life could be