There is nothing quite like the birth of a child to redirect our thinking from our daily patterns and prompt us to consider the big-picture view of where our world is heading.
I recently was blessed to become a grandfather for the first time as we joyfully welcomed a beautiful little girl to our family. While the immediate aftermath of her arrival is exciting in its own right, I am especially intrigued by the long-view for my new granddaughter and all of the other children who are being born into what many are terming Generation Alpha.
What will my granddaughter’s life look like in an era when technological advancements will create new opportunities that are impossible for us to fathom? Will her favorite middle school teacher be a human being or an intelligent machine? If she decides to play soccer in high school, will her matches be officiated by referees like me, or by more advanced and precise video refereeing and goal-line technology? On her 21st birthday in 2039, will she be summoning a driver-less vehicle to take her home safely after sipping her first margarita? Will her wedding planner be a robot? As she embarks upon her professional path, which career fields will be available to her, and what modalities will she be using to acquire the necessary education, training and practical experience needed to position her for success?
It is fun to let our imaginations run wild in envisioning the future, and there are many tantalizing possibilities to ponder. The reality, however, is that our likelihood of correctly predicting which technologies will reshape society 10, 25, or 50 years into the future is slim, at best. That said, we do know that the pace of technology-driven change is only going to accelerate. Those with the innovation bug are “standing on the shoulders of giants,” building upon the advancements that we are adopting today. ISACA has always evangelized the importance of good technology and information governance, but the importance of this governance today is not only about effectiveness and efficiency, nor is it only about enhancing organizational business performance and enabling business outcomes. Governance will evolve to consider boundaries for innovation and assurance of social and ethical responsibility. And this means responsible governance for technology and information will become even more pronounced – and perhaps just a given – during the course of my granddaughter’s lifetime.
As future innovations stream to market – presenting new opportunities in both our personal and professional lives – we must apply and assure the appropriate safeguards and controls to guard against the risks of unintended consequences. The disciplined approach to governance will not take stronger root unless we prioritize digital ethics and social responsibility. Today, these concepts are generally not top of mind, as the race to embrace disruptive technologies, and to meet the challenges of digital transformation through business model innovation, take precedence, resulting in products rushed to market without appropriate consideration given to security and privacy. This is problematic enough today, as evidenced by the increasing number of data breaches and cyberattacks we have experienced. In the years to come, be aware of the dark clouds overhead when malicious uses of artificial intelligence and new developments such as quantum computing become forces with which society will have to reckon. Just as my granddaughter must learn to crawl before she can walk, and walk before she can run, enterprises must train themselves to take responsible, security-minded measures on the path from ideation to launching new products.
Appeasing shareholders with a few strong quarters of growth, or even a few strong years, is nice, but the path to sustainable enterprise success will depend upon treating consumers with genuine concern for their well-being – and for society’s as well. An enterprise failing to take good-faith measures to look out for its customers will ultimately be subject to a profound backlash from the public, as many of the biggest names on the enterprise landscape have already discovered. As the risk-reward continuum for deploying new technologies becomes more pronounced at both ends of the spectrum, enterprises will need expanded training and ingrained protocols that give digital ethics and social responsibility sharpened emphasis in a new era of technological potency.
At ISACA, we are building up to our 50th anniversary year in 2019, which gives us cause to reflect upon the momentous, technology-driven strides our professional community has helped set in motion since the organization was founded in 1969. It is even more stirring to consider what ISACA’s impact will be over the next 50 years, as the global technology workforce serves as an even more transformative engine to propel society forward.
There is no doubt that technology advancements will enrich the lives of my granddaughter and her generation, providing incredible experiences and accomplishments that that will go well beyond what is available to her parents’ generation (we are already way past mine!). As promising as this may be, I want my granddaughter to live in a society that not only prioritizes the positive potential of new technologies, but also takes into account its impact on individuals and society. Imagine this: a generation that maximizes all the gifts technology has to offer by exercising due diligence and regard for the welfare of those around them. Some may think this is a lot to ask, and perhaps a grandfather dreaming; I choose to think otherwise, remaining optimistic that it is simply the way it will be.
Editor’s note: This post originally published on CSO.