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Defining the general public interest in recent technologies

Defining the general public interest in recent technologies

How are waves of disruptive technologies, equivalent to more advanced versions of artificial intelligence systems, changing the best way we work, live, and play? Are there pathways that academics, practitioners, innovators, and entrepreneurs must be pursuing to make sure that the biggest share of the advantages related to recent technologies uplift essentially the most marginalized populations? What skilled training is required to make sure that this happens? What responsibility do creators of latest or repurposed technologies have once they, and their organizations, create products or systems that may need adversarial societal consequences? We’re in an era in need of clear skilled guidelines and norms, to say nothing of laws and regulations regarding the social impacts of latest technologies.

Public interest technology, as an emerging field, goals to assist shift the scholarly focus from the technologies to the technologists. To support this nascent field, students, faculty, and staff at MIT are launching a conversation to encourage technologists from different fields to confront the moral and moral dilemmas that require them to redefine best practices within the face of ever-changing societal needs and norms. 

is a brand new online publication that seeks to bring together the MIT community to define and discuss the social responsibilities of people who design, implement, and evaluate technologies, especially in recent fields. The editorial team for this publication has identified public interest technology as a brand new multidisciplinary field that emphasizes the advantages that might flow from each old and recent technologies as they’re developed in essentially the most responsible fashion.

“Because the pace of technology innovation quickens, the impacts, often unexpected, of latest technologies generate gains and losses. Past experience with technological innovation has demonstrated that those diverse gains and losses are distributed unequally,” says Lawrence Susskind, the Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning on the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and a member of editorial team. “I believe that those of us who care, and people of us with leadership roles on this field, have a responsibility to take concerted motion to reduce essentially the most harmful effects while ensuring that advantages reach those most in need. We see this publication as a method to maneuver on this direction.”

Framing the general public interest in tech design and development

As one example of technology’s recent impact on society, the Covid-19 pandemic dramatically modified how we work and commute. Amongst other shifts, public transit agencies have been forced to contend with a brand new normal.

In an interview with Emilie Flamme, an MIT graduate student in city planning and a editor Jim Aloisi and Jinhua Zhao of MIT’s Transit Lab propose a way: “to modernize and optimize transit for a labor workforce currently experiencing shortages. To implement this process, they underscore that defining the general public interest involves co-defining questions that public agencies and staff must answer with the general public. Aloisi and Zhao note that their Transit Lab emphasizes the query of what’s in the general public interest. Public technology is at the center of the work they do, and Zhao wonders whether students receiving technological training get enough exposure and education regarding the general public interest.

Fostering conversations, each at MIT and beyond

At MIT, editorial team seeks to impress a campus-wide conversation: How do public interest technologists define their social responsibilities? Is it reasonable to assume that those that invent or implement recent technologies will take some responsibility for the impacts or effects these technologies have? Who should resolve what these responsibilities must be? Do norms have to be enforced?

Members of 63 universities, including MIT, have formed a coalition with the support of Recent America Foundation to share ideas about public interest technology (PIT). Should it’s the main focus of latest degree programs? What research questions regarding PIT deserve the very best priority? The PIT-UN coalition provides grants and organizes an annual convening, including the 2023 PIT-UN Convening at Boston University in October. is an extension of MIT’s involvement with the PIT-UN network.

The editorial team at hopes to involve all MIT community members in shaping its current and future content. The team invites nominations for prospective interviewees from across the MIT community, article suggestions, and already published materials that may support a broader discussion of public interest technology at MIT. Community members are also invited to attend the PIT-UN annual meeting at Boston University this fall.


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