Parc tecnològic – February 22
Do technology and ethics have to be aligned or should the market be allowed to self-regulate? José Luis Gómez Fernández, commissioner for economic promotion, enterprise and innovation in the Barcelona City Council, and Genís Roca, president of RocaSalvatella, debated these questions as part of Mobile Week Barcelona in the auditorium of the Parc Tecnològic de Nou Barris, the venue where the sessions were held on the morning of Thursday the 22nd of February.
Until now, businesses that knew how to incorporate technology were given a competitive advantage in the market, but today the pace of technology is no longer a guarantee of success. For this reason, Genís Roca started the talk by arguing that in the future, business will have to differentiate themselves via ethics.
With the excuse of security and services, states and companies are extracting a great deal of unjustified information without guaranteeing stewardship of the data. Now citizens are beginning to have doubts about how this information is being managed. “The concept of the citizen audit is new”, stated Genís Roca. “This has to be used so that everyone respects privacy agreements. Companies and the public administration have to know that we citizens are watching them”.
Then, José Luis Gómez reminded participants that Google has the majority of data and that we don’t know how it uses them. So, he wanted to warn the audience to be aware of where and with whom they give their information. But citizen responsibility isn’t everything; he also stated that governments all over the world will have to coordinate in order to draw up a global ethics code such as the one developed for medicine.
At the end of the debate, the dialogue “Ethics and Artificial Intelligence: Future Visions and Contradictions” began. The participants included Begoña Román, president of the Ethics Committee of Social Services of Catalonia; Itziar de Lecuona, professor in the department of medicine in the Faculty of Medicine, and deputy director of the Bioethics and Law Observatory; Carme Torras, research professor at CSIC and writer; Marcel Cano, professor and researcher; and Maite López, full professor at the University of Barcelona. Albert Sáez, a journalist from El Periódico, was the moderator of the debate, which discussed the limits needed on the new technologies.
At the start of the session, Begoña Román brought up the topic of the need to establish an ethics code that could regulate the way our data are managed. “We cannot have an attitude of relativism regarding these issues with the excuse that there is a demand in the market”.
The dialogue continued with the truism that accessibility to the new technologies should be universal. As a business, it requires global legal regulation in which citizens are allowed to play an active role. Progress has to allow for increased freedom, not mean new forms of submission.
Related to the topic of increased freedom, Itziar de Lecuona focused on the importance of being aware of what is being done at all times and the possibility of danger when decisions are taken in this field. We have to pause a bit in this increasingly fast-paced life to at least determine what scenarios we don’t want. Acting without knowing about the consequences makes us an indolent, weak society since we are unaware of our capacity for resistance.
Secondly, Carme Torras stressed the process of digital legislation. We have laws that are not keeping pace with the increasing technological evolution, which is always a step ahead. Right now, this is inevitable, but we should clearly know that there is always a series of values which give meaning to our society. The main problem occurs when the power of technology is prioritised over our values and rights. The excessive dependency on technology which we have created is defining our nature and putting a price on an asset that has entered the market and is very dangerous: our privacy. This willing submission has meant that human ethics are even further relegated to the background.
Maite López added that we have to attach importance to our rights, just like the rights we call for in politics, because they don’t seem to be important in technology. However, there is a human quality that is increasingly distant from us: decision-making. We have accepted this without valuing the criteria of how algorithms have been programmed.
In the last few minutes, Marcel Cano wanted to discuss the more technical side of cyborgs. According to Cano, we would not be human without technology. More “informed consent” is needed, as happens in healthcare, where the expert outlines to the patient all the possible scenarios so that the patient can decide what treatment they want to accept. This approach should also be used in the sphere of technology and its users because it is important to ask ourselves to what extent should the social control that falls upon the regulator ultimately be the responsibility of companies or depend on our attitude?
In the Nou Barris district, the workshops were conducted by Xavier Capdevila, a technical IT engineer and post-graduate in Participation and Sustainable Development. The first LAB, “Restart Party in Òmnia Verdum”, was advocated in favour reuse and against the obsolescence of machines and materials. It was held at the Punt Òmnia Casal Cívic Barcelona in conjunction with the Fundació Pare Manel.
“Future Jobs” focused on exploring and presenting the new job profiles which may appear in the neighbourhood thanks to ICTs. It was held at the Centre Obert Muntanyés, also in conjunction with the Fundació Pare Manel.
The “Initiation to The Things Network” workshop was based on knowing how to use a LoRaWan sensor and connect it to The Things Network (TTN) to check the real-time data on different everyday matters from your home, such as knowing where you parked your bicycle. The workshop was held in conjunction with Ateneu de Fabricació Digital de Ciutat Meridiana, which provided the space, and with the participation of the Fundació Pare Manel.
The youngest residents of the district were also able to learn the basic principles of computers, their language and the way code works. Xavier Capdevila taught the “Initiation Workshop on Programming” in conjunction with the Fundació Pare Manel. It served as an initial contact with programming in an environment in which participants were able to interact with robots and videogames. It was held at the Punt Òmnia Verdum – Casal Cívic Verdum.
Furthermore, a workshop was held for all ages, “Open Map of Citizen Participation and Community Technologies”, in conjunction with the Fundació Pare Manel. It started at the Punt Òmnia Casal Cívic and set off on a walk through the neighbourhood with the idea of mapping on an OpenStreetMap.
The activities of the mWeek Gallery in the Nou Barris district included guided tours of the Parc Tecnològic of Barcelona Activa, a space measuring more than 10,000 m2 with infrastructures and services. It is the largest cluster of tech companies in the northern part of the city.
Furthermore, thanks to the cooperation of In-Edit, the documentary “A Life in Waves” was screened, an immersion in the magical, candid world of Suzanne Ciani, a pioneer in electronic music and “queen of musical effects” for the advertising industry.