Hey there! It’s day 3 of our Tech for Good reality checks advent calendar, and we’re taking a look at a critical flaw in many 'Tech for Good' initiatives: the replication of existing, exploitative power structures.
Despite the buzz about innovation and change, the truth is that much of 'Tech for Good' is still entrenched in the old ways of doing things. Many of these initiatives, even the most well-intentioned, are born out of and operate within the same economic system that prioritises profit and power over genuine societal improvement.
This replication of traditional thinking means that these technologies often miss the mark in addressing the very issues they claim to tackle. Let’s take a look at some examples.
How about the process of product design in these companies? Many decide what's 'good' for their users without involving them in the development process from the beginning. This top-down approach reflects traditional technology development. What happened to the idea of ‘nothing about us without us?
Another critical issue is how employees who work for many organisations that claim to do Tech for Good are treated. There’s a trend where some 'Tech for Good' companies, despite their modern image, still engage in practices like expecting unpaid overtime, which is essentially wage slavery. It’s a stark contrast to their progressive branding and certainly raises questions about their commitment to societal improvement.
Unfortunately, the 'good' in 'technology for good' can sometimes be a façade. Just consider OpenAI's claim of benefiting ‘all of humanity’. It’s easy to say that if you’re not going to address the dynamics of technological unemployment, like how they’re exacerbating wealth inequality by allowing their tool to be used to replace human jobs without offering equitable solutions. You’re going on the naughty list for that hypocrisy, OpenAI!
True 'Tech for Good' should challenge the status quo, not conform to it. It should be about creating solutions that don't just operate within existing power dynamics but actively work to dismantle them.
True societal improvement, true Tech for Good comes from inclusive design processes and standing by your mission statements with authenticity.