New Group Aims to Study Impact of AI and Algorithms on Society
I’ve had many great conversations with my friend and PR authority Toni Muzi Falcone about the impact of technology on the field and society at large. Recently he told me about a new effort that he helped conceive – DigiDig – a website and citizen-led group dedicated to studying this area.
Flack’s Revenge has covered tech in PR extensively, and my companion blog Hack the Feed covers algorithms in communications. But there are implications well beyond PR – technology increasingly determines not only the news we read, but has a role in everything from banking to education, transportation, healthcare and beyond.
Following the launch of the Internet, the old saying was “the network is the computer.” Increasingly the technology platforms (the social networks and search engines) are the computers. Big Tech holds the cards, and has an ever-greater role in our discourse and decisions. It is important to understand where this is going, to ensure laws and safeguards are in place, and that the net effect on society is positive.
That is my quick take, and I believe Toni would agree, but this post is about DigiDig. They started in Italy (the website for now is almost entirely in Italian) and have an international focus. I asked Toni to tell me more, and he shared the following:
“DigiDig questions the algorithmic society. It is a start-up community, launched on October 9, 2016, of some 150 Italian digitally active and prominent citizens wishing to better understand, discuss and raise awareness of peers on issues related to ‘user power’ vis-à-vis XXI century global robber barons.
The intention is to connect with the many similar or analog groups that populate the global digital space. Our immediate focus includes Brussels and New York, but we also wish to dialog with New Zealand, Kazakhstan and Namibia.
Its promoters are academics, intellectuals, journalists, managers, lobbyists, elected officials, communicators, writers, sociologists, and polemicists.
Following two open house sessions in Rome and Milano last June, a coordinating committee of six was formed and a web space just opened a few days ago containing a shared ‘manifesto’ plus opinions and comments in Italian and English.
The manifesto, titled: ‘the algorithm as a technology of freedom?’, defines its main issue as
(…..) the active and critical observation of the true nature of the global process reorganizing social and economic life, focused on the development and exchange of cognitive products of artificial intelligence.
As algorithms simplify digital procedures as well as the automation of humanity’s most delicate and discretionary activities, we cannot accept that such process proceeds in disrespect of the elementary rules of transparency, information and access to participation to its decision-making processes and operational standards.
If it is true that –as often affirmed by creators, shareholders and executives of those global groups – we are in fact confronted with a new ‘public sphere and/or space’ (and we very much believe it is so) – we also insist that the mechanisms creating new alphabets, social structures and determining influences over individual choices, need to be understandable, shared, socially negotiable and integrated.(…).
No membership fees, but requests for contributions via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org“