An Ethical Framework of CREPE Factors
Over the past thirty years or so, the number of technologies that truly impact all aspects of our lives has been increasing: the web, nanotechnology, #IoT, #AI, and materials science…all have this potential. We require system level thinking to understand this complexity. Some of these technologies will help us understand the cultural, regulatory, economic, political and environmental factors (CREPEf), as well as the technical ethics, and philosophical impact, of these and other tech, and ecosystems. How these technologies combine and enhance the others increases the complexity, limits our ability to simulate interactions, or to understand unexpected consequences.
There are many who promote exponential thinking, such as Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis; the idea that technology is changing everything around us at an ever increasing pace. Individuals and organizations, entrepreneurs and established leaders must think exponentially to survive. Advances from mathematics accelerates advances in all the sciences…advances engineering practices…advances technologies becoming products…and advances art and artistic sentiment; compounding to foster this exponential acceleration. I don't disagree with this. I don't disagree that linear thinking for predicting the next steps one should take, stopped being effective long ago. But there is a huge difference between advances from science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) being available, and those advances being adopted. Adoption needs to be understood to focus one's exponential thinking…to understand one's scenarios predicting the future. We need a framework upon which we can build our scenarios of what might happen next. In our own practice, we have adopted a framework using cultural, regulatory, economic, political and environmental factors (CREPEf) building upon a central core of ethics. There are similar frameworks that are used in various futurist analysis and foresight consulting. As always, we build upon the work of others, to make it our own.
Ethics must be at the core of any strategic framework, just as standards of ethics should be at the core of our decision making. (When I was studying for my baccalaureate degree in chemistry, I recognized that technical ethics should guide my research, and I pursued a second major in philosophy with a thesis title of "Using the Concept of Platonic Forms to Create a Framework for Technical Ethics"; unfortunately my thesis advisor disappeared over the holiday break, and my research was halted when no other professor would accept my topic.) Ethics are standards of behaviour that inform us whether a decision…an action, is right or wrong. The question becomes what are standards of ethics. Ethics transcends culture, religion, legality and science. The best current reference that I have found is "A Framework for Ethical Decision Making" from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA, USA. They even have an app to help you establish a pattern of ethical decision making. The authors of "A Framework for Ethical Decision Making" have distilled five sources of ethical standards, and built their framework and app to help individuals and organizations decide among possibly conflicting elements among these sources. Their framework is fact and scenario based, and has an iterative, learning approach as one moves from one decision to the next. Not only do we need ethics as a core for human decision making, and as core to our framework for strategic foresight, but we need to have ethics as the core for autonomous decisions by machines, in machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL) and artificial narrow intelligence (AnI) within the Internet of Things (IoT) and Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE), and as machines augment humans in managing and analyzing data, thinking of new questions to ask of the data, and finding answers that guide our decisions. Ethics will guide how privacy, transparency, security and convenience are provided in a flexible fashion as trust is built through two-way accountability among machine and human members of sensor analytics ecosystems (SensAE).
Culture is a more important factor than is society or societal factors. Culture exists at many levels, within countries, regions, neighborhoods and organizations, and cultural anthropology helps us to understand how cultures evolve and adapt at every level. Whether you are a member of a city council trying to apply smart city concepts, a government official pondering privacy and security for new sensor data in transportation or contemplating transparency and convenience through open data initiatives, or a corporate manager pondering the market realities of moving through IoT maturity, or an entrepreneur pitching your next idea, the culture where your idea will be implemented determines how your idea will be accepted.
Regulatory processes are more important than existing laws in understanding how adoption of new STEAM concepts will be slowed or accelerated in a given culture. Laws are not often a good measure of whether or not a technology would be adopted. There are laws on the books that require a car to be preceded by a man on a horse with a green flag and to be followed by a man on a horse with a red flag. While those laws have never been rescinded, they have been supplanted…for example by regulation that allow testing and use of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Regulatory process changes from culture to culture; it may be different at the national level than at the city level. Understanding that regulatory processes take a long time is also necessary to guiding your exponential thinking. For example from the time we first saw a Lexus RX 300 vehicle with a LIDAR array a top its roof until the first regulations were proposed in California, Nevada, Arizona and other states, and other countries, about those autonomous vehicles was about 10 years. Lobbyists, standards bodies, and other political influencers impact the regulatory process. Laws are also not necessarily ethical; the ethical ramifications of a law may not have been considered; the ethics of when the law was enacted may not be the ethical reality of today…or tomorrow. The regulatory process presents the opportunity to apply an ethical framework in bringing new legal decisions into new laws.
Economics very definitely impact the adoption of new STEAM…macroeconomics, microeconomics, ontological economics, differing economic models and theories and realities impacting marketing forces, budgeting decisions and governmental responses through monetary and fiscal policies. There are many aspects to economics that study and evaluate fiscal programs, human behavior, and social phenomena, using theoretical models or empirical data; their contributions inform everything from public policy to household decisions. In general, looking at economic revolutions over time, we see that they are the result of combining revolutionary new means of communication, information distribution and energy creation in expanding ecosystems. The potential of shifting career opportunities or mass unemployment is one example of using an ethical framework in economic decisions to adopt technologies in artificial intelligence or longevity enhancement, perhaps so AI technologies augment humans rather than supplant humans, or megaprojects spanning decades for completion become realistic individual goals, as well as in finding new ways to reward humans for work each individual finds to be fulfilling as well as providing value to humanity as a whole.
Politics play an important role in the adoption of STEAM as politicians respond to their perceived desires of their constituents and the explicit desires of lobbyists. It is necessary to understand the politics and political process of a region to understand how regime, party or political leadership changes can change the adoption or funding of your product, service, megaproject or innovation. The “not invented here” syndrome is strong in politics. The newcomers may even have won by promising stability, throwing out the change endorsed by the incumbent. You may have bet your organization on a Smart City megaproject or telemedicine extensions for bringing healthcare to the poor, that go away or be reprioritized or put into committee for further study once political power changes.
Environmental considerations should weigh in on STEAM adoption through an ethical framework, and by considering decades long timelines, near term effects on the environment within an ecosystem, the environment in which the ecosystem exists, and the environmental conditions to which each component of the ecosystem is exposed during individual duty cycles and throughout its life. Environmental considerations are two-way: your product and ecosystem impact on the environment and the impact of the use environment on your product or ecosystem.
As one builds scenarios and uses data to predict adoption of new STEAM innovations, and ethical framework of CREPE factors (CREPEf) is the only way to manage risk to yourself, your organization and your ecosystem.