Consider How Tech Will Cause Harm Before You Build It, says IoT expert

This blog is based on an episode of our podcast, The PathCast. The Pathcast is an interview series with tech and business experts, discussing the good, the bad and ugly of business and providing actionable steps for you to implement from the ground up. You can listen to this episode here.

“Yeah, they weren’t so sure about me blowing stuff up!” said Christopher Biggs, Founder and Principal Consultant at Accelerando Consulting, when asked whether his parents nurtured his love for technology.

Biggs’ positive and humourous temperament complemented his love for technology. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he said, quoting Clarke’s Third Law.

And that’s what he wants to do; create magic.

Biggs has over 20 years as a developer, software architect, and engineering manager, tinkering with everything in tech from the Web to IoT and priding himself on being at the forefront of innovation. Launching his consultancy firm in 2016, Biggs imparts that wisdom into business looking to thrive in the digital age.

Consider how bad actors will use your tech

While Biggs advocates for curiosity and innovation, he does so with caution.

Technology is a double-edged sword—and IoT, in particular, has been hitting the headlines for its drawbacks. Privacy invasions from both individuals and governments, dubious technology from vendors, and early adopters who fail to consider abusive uses of their technology have shone an unwanted light on the industry.

“The good news is that all this has happened before; remember Windows 95 and its laughable security, fax machines, and networked printers, and the first cell phone cameras, and cyberbullying on Facebook,” says Biggs.

“It’s a natural and usually temporary phase that new technology goes through before we learn to mitigate its downsides.”

“The bad news is, we didn’t learn from the last dozen times this happened, we’re going through the same pain over and over again.”

Biggs urges that all new founders consider radical and extreme uses of what they are building.

“I want to grab tech startups by the metaphorical shoulders and rattle them - How can this be used for abuse? What would an abusive spouse use this for? Who will get fired because of this technology? Is it useful to nazis?

“These questions need to be part of the business model for every new technology product.”

Could the tech you're developing be used for harm?

Use sci-fi as inspiration for business

Turning to sci-fi for cautionary tales is a good place to start when figuring out how your latest innovation may or may not be exploited, but cautionary tales aren’t the only reason Biggs love the genre, but because it’s clear inspiration for everything we’ve built so far.

“Science fiction books and movies let us know what was possible. Imagine how differently we’d think about robots if we didn't have Frankenstein as a metaphor. So much of the way we think about tech and the place in our lives is inspired by tales, predictions, and what-ifs.”

When asked what prediction he’d give, Biggs said he believes humans will begin modifying bodies at a cellular level. While we may be a way off this becoming widely accepted, life today would have been unimaginable in the past.

“Body modification as an art form is going to go into some really strange directions,” he continued.

What else did we chat with Christopher Biggs about? Listen to this episode of The PathCast. Spoilers, sweetie: there are Star Trek quotes!

People don't like change, don't let that hinder business

PS. Want to stay in the loop?

If you’d like to stay up to date with Biggs and Accelerando Consulting, catch them on all of the regular social channels.

  • Biggs’ LinkedIn: Here here here.
  • Biggs’ Twitter: @unixbigot
  • Accelerando Consulting Twitter: @Accelerando_au
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