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Bridging Between the Speed of Tech and the Speed of Society

One of the central features of modern life is that some sectors of society move at very different speeds than others. The courts move on the time scale of months or years to process a case. The passage of new legislation implementing policy changes can take years at the Federal level. The curriculum of higher education majors moves gradually over years. Standards of behavior and certification processes for professional groups change only over years or decades.

Yet technological changes move more quickly. Moore’s law speculated that the speed of processors would double each two years, as a function of chip development and the speculation was largely supported over the decades after he forwarded it. Chat GPT-3, a generative Artificial Intelligence platform was followed by Chat GPT-4, a more powerful tool than its predecessor by a factor of 10 or so, introduced just a couple of months later. A tenfold increase in productivity in two months! It is anticipated that when the AI modules can be written by AI platforms themselves, that the growth of capacity will advance even faster.

We all got a lesson in exponential growth during the COVID pandemic, as a small set of infections led over a very short time to large sets of persons infected. Exponential growth in that case was deadly. The pandemic forced change in decision-making speed. In some cases, the necessary speed was attained by human organizations. In other cases, large numbers of deaths resulted from slow speed of reaction.

Georgetown profits from a group of faculty and students attempting to bridge one of these gaps between the natural speed of different sectors. The Tech and Society Initiative is a network of existing units and their staffs from different parts of the university – the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, the Center for Digital Ethics, the School of Foreign Service’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, the Law Center on Privacy and Technology, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Communication, Culture and Technology Program, the College of Arts & Sciences’ Computer Science Department, its Ethics Lab, the Institute for Technology Law and Policy, and the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Massive Data Institute.

This is a wonderful example of applying Georgetown’s values of people for others – to boldly tackle pressing world problems, to do so in novel interdisciplinary ways, to integrate research and education, to foster environments where students and faculty work together, subordinating their allegiance to their own discipline to focus on the problem.

This is a big week for the Tech and Society network – the second annual Tech and Society week. This is a weeklong showcase of our colleagues’ work in forming a bridge between societal behaviors, norms, regulations, and laws related to technology and its rapid evolution. There are scores of events, from a focus on new techniques to enhance the privacy of data, to feminist cyberlaw, to intersectional biases in artificial intelligence systems, to interplanetary governance of the internet, and more and more. The last day of the week hosts the Fritz Family Fellowship conference, the presentation by student and postdoc Fellows describing the current status of their projects sponsored by two or more of the Tech and Society centers.

All of this is made possible by the diligent work of the faculty, students, and staff of the Tech and Society network. Try to take advantage of these events. Go here for the schedule for Thursday and Friday.

2 thoughts on “Bridging Between the Speed of Tech and the Speed of Society

  1. Great post. Using Georgetown’s values and academic endeavors to try to keep up with break neck technologies! Reminds me of a sociology course I took in college I think in like 1965 . The professor predicted that the main problem in the coming decades would be CULTURAL LAG . That is technology and rapid movement of people and tech could not in any way be accompanied by necessary cultural changes to help society adapt. People would move away from home towns , and grandparents who helped raise kids, quick job changes , changes in jobs which would leave out huge populations. And now those changes such as AI will be exponential. I do wish that professor was around to help us adjust but I’m sure GU Will address such problems with knowledge , creative ideas AND With great Jesuit values for the common good .

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