Five New Human Rights For The Digital Age

from Medium

Here are some core human rights that I humbly suggest might form part of a what I like to call a Digital Ethics Manifesto:

1. The right to remain natural, i.e. ‘merely’ biological and organic. We must continue to have the choice to exist in an unaugmented state. We need to retain the right to work or be employed, use public services, buy things, and function in society without the need to deploy technology with, on or — most importantly — inside our bodies. Various expressions of what I like to call #WiredOrFired — fears are already an issue with mobile devices and social media; yet one can easily imagine a future where we may increasingly be forced to wear augmented reality AR or VR glasses, visors, or helmets to qualify for employment, or even worse, be required to use or implant specific ‘wetware apps’ or BCI’s (brain computer interfaces) as a non-negotiable condition of employment. Mere humans may soon no longer be good enough — and somehow I don’t think this would be a very desirable future.

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4 Comments

  1. This article touches upon a very relevant issue that we face in today’s society. Technology innovation gives us the opportunity to improve efficiency and accuracy in various areas from marketing to security to business operations. The original intentions of these innovations were to assist humanity in our daily lives; however, technology innovation turned out to have a number of negative side effects our society does not have concrete ways to prevent. More often now than ever, we hear on the news about court cases that relief around unethical technology issues. This article caught my attention because each of the five “new human rights” for our digital world touches upon controversial and unsolved issues relating to technology that we face everyday. The first right discuss the idea of having the choice to remain absent from technology use. I think that this rule is the most important of all. We as individuals are expected to excel in new technology that is released. As a college student, I feel the pressure to fill my resume will technology skills just to meet the qualifications of internships that I am interested in. Companies set standards for candidates regardless of the candidates’ backgrounds, age and past experiences. They are assessed on their ability to perform through the use of technology rather than assessing the candidates for what they bring to the table without the technology. This idea perfectly ties into the second right. Today’s society revolves around efficiency, and technology is the solution to the improvement of efficiency. The second right is that “we should never make efficiency more important than humanity.” One of the inherent traits of humanity is the guarantee of progress through innovation. While technology can provide temporary efficiency, it has not guarantee progress. Therefore, humanity is the key to the continuous improvement in every aspect including efficiency. The next three rules deal with the right to remain anonymous, the right to disconnect, and the right to employee people instead of machines. All of the rights bring up one common idea that individuals having the ability to keep their privacy, be evaluated and make life decisions apart from technology.

  2. As the world becomes more technologically advanced, we need to take into consideration the basic rights that we have as humans and change them, or add to them, to fit into our changing society. This is exactly what Gerd Leonhard did in his book Technology vs. Humanity. He suggests that we need to have laws put in place to protect our rights in the digital world. The right that he mentioned that I felt was most important was the right to disconnect or the right to go offline. He describes this as having the right to “pause communications, tracking or monitoring.” A common problem with technology today is that people become addicted and start feeling disconnect from the actual world. It can have a major impact on the mental health of some people and some studies even show that there is a link between the amount of time spent online and depression. If employers start to require that their employees need to be constantly connected and constantly online, this may impact the mental health of some of these individuals. This article that I read contains some very shocking statistics about adolescents and young adults and the impact that technology and heavy screen time is having on their developing brains. https://www.fishertitus.org/health/effects-technology-mental-health The other point that Leonhard made that I felt was important is that we should have the right to remain anonymous in the digital world. We should be able to voice our opinions, make comments, as long as they are not harmful to other people, anonymously. We should have option of not being identified or tracked when using applications or we should at least be notified of the tracking. I just read an article that said that facebook, unknowingly, is collecting sensitive data about individuals from other applications, even if the individual doesn’t have a facebook account.Things such as this should not be allowed to happen and our data should be protected in cases like this. The world may be getting more efficient and smarter with the increases in technology, however we have to be smarter. We need to make sure that our human rights are protected not only in the real world, but in the digital world as well.

  3. This article first caught my eye because it seems like such a crazy idea. I read “five new human rights” and thought that this guy must be joking. Human rights are very big terms that cannot just be thrown around. But after reading, I must say that I might actually agree with him, although I do have some concerns.
    The first right he speaks about is “the right to remain neutral.” What he means by that is the ability to remain fully and completely free of technology running our lives. In today’s world, this idea seems totally nuts, and mildly impossible. But what people always seem to forget is that technology is (on a geological time scale) brand new to the world. For hundreds of thousands of years humans have been living without even having electricity, let alone being able to pick up the phone and call, text, video chat, or anything else. Going neutral would simply mean going back to the way we always were.
    The second right he brings up is the right to be inefficient and imperfect. In essence the right to be human. It is crazy that humans now have to create themselves a right to remain human, but unfortunately this is the world we now live in. With artificial intelligence so prevalent in our world, anyone with a phone can use Siri and be smarter than any genius in history. This has shifted our world to an expectation of perfection when asking questions, which is honestly not possible for an unaided human being (meaning without the help of technology). We need to keep the right to be wrong, no pun intended.
    The third right he talked about, and the most important one in my opinion, is the right to disconnect. Developed nations are experiencing one of the worst epidemics in world history: technology addiction. Anyone who has tried to go phone-free for any period of time can understand how bad the situation actually is. Most people can not, and I really mean CAN NOT give up their devices. They could not function without them. This is a depressing idea, and one that will have no chance of getting better if we do not maintain a right to completely disconnect from technology.
    The fourth right is similar to the third, it is the right to remain anonymous. Just like information on random things is fully available online, so is personal information. The ability to remain anonymous is extremely important in order to maintain any level of privacy. Before technology became readily available, it was easy to stay private. But now, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep yourself, and your personal information, out of other people’s hands.
    The fifth and final right he looks at, the right to engage people instead of machines, is the most economically impactful one of all. Robots could actually take over the world. Granted, it would not be like the movies where robots start killing everyone (although that could happen too) it will be robots taking over our jobs, leaving humans without work. Payroll is one of the biggest expenses of any business, so if they can save money on that by installing a robot, they certainly will. What we need to do is make sure companies have no significant benefit to using technology rather than human beings, to keep humans in the workforce.
    All of these rights come together to ensure technology does not force its way into every tiny part of our lives, and turn us from humans into pawns in the robot scheme.

  4. I think that this is an important topic in the world today. As we, as humans, evolve and invest our time in technology we need to protect ourselves from it. I don’t like the word protect though because the extreme implies that technology will rise up against humans. Which, in my opinion is unrealistic and far fetched. But I do believe technology is hurting and can hurt us more than we cognitively recognize. There are tons of articles as assumptions out there that technology hurt relationships, productivity and education. And it may, in fact be hurting those things. But it’s hurting our past expectations of those things. For example, in relationships, the only way you had a chance to meet a partner before any kind of phone was through face to face meeting. As landlines became more popular, did couples not start calling each other more? They were taking advantage of the technology to further develop their relationship. Now that does hurt all the soda shops and bars that people were going to to meet people, but it was a developing part of society and the nature of the world. We can make all the accusations we want about technology being terrible for us. But it is not going to stop people from taking advantage of the new technologies. So in response we have to develop more law and more regulations without making it a hindrance to societal growth.
    The right to remain natural is understandable. When bringing up BCIs (Brain Computer Interfaces), it reminds me of an episode of black mirror. “The Entire History of You” goes into BCIs that record everything you’ve ever seen and you are able to replay it on a monitor. I fully believe that this is possible but, I agree, should not be forced upon people at this moment. I think there will become a day where more than 99% of the world will be ready for it but today is not the day.
    The right to be inefficient is very hard because right now if I, as a human, am more efficient than another human they would choose me to do that job rather than the other person. But someone, like a manager, would still have to check my work because of human error. Like human error computers and devices also malfunction and need to be checked by a human. I think that the right to be inefficient is like someone not going to college. You chose not to advance yourself so you may not get certain privileges over someone who may.
    Unlike the right to be inefficient, I am totally for the right to disconnect. I think disconnecting from technology is very important but infrequently done. I believe that if you have “advanced” yourself technologically with a BCI, for example, for work you should be able to disconnect and turn it off. Your personal life and your work life are two different things. It is up to you how you want to cross them and mingle them together but it has to be on your terms. Your boss or the government should not be able to tell you how you spend your free time.
    I believe the right to be anonymous is already a myth. There is no way that a hacker can not track my IP Address after I post this comment, even with a fake name, and figure out who I am with that information. I think the write to sign off on things as anonymous or under a fake name can be continued but there is no way that we will be successful at being fully anonymous.
    The right to employ or engage people is a valid thought but I do not agree with the notion of taxing businesses over using technology. I think that if the government taxed people when computers were becoming more popular, almost every business, especially small to mid sized businesses would have ditched computers immediately. I do not believe the growth of computers would have been the same if there was a tax imposed. If we do that now we could possibly halt the growth of technology and society by doing so.

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