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Ian is one of the founders of the crisis management discipline. Thank you for joining us today. Thank you for having me. Many proclaim its positive impact. Others point to the negative forces emotionally, physically, and socially. Your book Technology Run Amok seems to be a call to arms about this latest revolution. So let me ask you: What makes this current revolution different from others?
Recently, Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT engineers have developed gold leaf tattoo that can be placed directly on our skin so that we can communicate seamlessly with all of our wonderful devices.
In other words, our skins will be the window or the screen into our devices. The problem with it is that young kids already sleep with their cellphones under their pillows at night lest they miss an important text. Now their skins are going to be buzzing all night long? The point is that we continue to dump all this stuff out on society and then later—if then—think of the negative unintended consequences. Artificial intelligence AI enthusiasts have proposed putting chips in our brains so that AI will not only be in us but will be of us literally, and no thought is given to the fact that a brain is a very complicated mechanism, to put it mildly, and what if somebody were to hack into the chips, what kind of damage could they do to our brains and our bodies?
We can talk about robots taking over, driverless cars, which, yes, would be safer, but millions of people would be displaced. So the point is that technology is more pervasive and invasive than ever before in our history.
I have a Ph. The crisis management part that I do is that all technologies are abused and misused—we could talk about Facebook here galore—in ways not envisioned by their designers, and that has to be an integral part of thinking before we unleash any technology on the world. I want to know what are the plans? What are the crisis plans in place, and thought that has been given to how possible damage can result from the best of intentions because one of the things that I do in my book, after reading scores of books on technology pro and con, I explicated something I call the "technological mindset," a set of underlying beliefs which drive technologists.
Could you define what you mean by the "technological mindset"? IAN MITROFF: The technological mindset to me is when I read this slew of books I realized that there was an underlying set of beliefs, a belief system, not a bunch of independent attitudes floating around in space, but something that was coordinated. And when you look at it, it was a mindset. So when you look at this thing as a whole you begin to see a technical belief system that is underlying our obsession with technology.
Not all technologists have this, thank god, but unfortunately in my experience in interacting with technologists over a lifetime many do in one way or another. I focus my efforts solely on technology. We need technologists who are informed by the humanities and vice versa. Let me give you a concrete example. My wife has a Ph. Unfortunately, kids began to play around with it. The light turned on in their brain and said: "Oh, my god.
If kids are playing around with this stuff, then we better get somebody in here who knows something about kids. That to me is one of the key elements of a socially responsible company, a tech company, that says: "Wait a second.
We need to have a different set of people in here than the normal suspects. Yes, we need technologists, but we need ethicists. If anything, I think a new federal agency needs to be created that will subject tech to regulation because largely it has been unregulated. But now think about all the other things, like putting chips in our brains.
When you put something in your body it seems to require some type of oversight. What will be the oversight agency? It was disbanded. So we put tattoos on the outside of our skin and we put chips inside. What kind of interactions are we setting up? And who is in charge of it? Is there a central element or mind or body that is taking a look at this and saying: "Hey, wait a second.
Suppose this thing here interacts with that. What are the effects, good and bad? Nothing is going to stop that. But boy, we need to take a harder look at what the unintended consequences are, how things will be abused and misused. In essence, what this means is that Facebook breaches our privacy and sells our information to outside businesses without telling us.
So, as a crisis management expert, what would you advise them to do now, and what should they have done before? What would I do? What they did is they not only ignored but blocked the early warning signals of impending problems. In fact, they set out on a campaign to discredit the people who brought forth those signals, and particularly external critics.
One of the worst things of all from The New York Times is that they labeled critics who brought forth important and reasonable information as anti-Semitic. So what they did is they did everything possible to discredit the critics until the problems became overwhelming and burst into the public consciousness and they could no longer ignore them. You asked me, what would I do? In many cases, not all, the only way to regain some sanity and some ethical direction is to really fire the top management.
Let me put it another way, in very stark terms. There is no question obviously that Zuckerberg was smart enough to invent Facebook. He had the technical knowledge. I have in front of me a cartoon from the Chicago Tribune , and it shows Zuckerberg. Every day bad news piles up. Let me put it another way. You asked from a crisis management standpoint. Ideally, what would have been done at the first signs of cyberbullying and in fact even before, I feel almost percent sure that if from the beginning teams of parents, kids, teachers, and psychologists had been assembled, they would have picked up the possibility of Facebook being used as a platform for cyberbullying.
But let me give you another case. I was out on the road one time, and I went to this major pharmaceutical company. The guy who agreed to talk with me, I asked him, "What are you guys doing about product tampering? Without missing a beat, this guy turns to me, and he said, "We have an internal assessment team. One day we realized we know more about our product than anybody else, so we held up one of our bottles of pills, painkillers, and we looked at the cap as the front door of a house, and the walls are the walls of a house.
They realize there is no such thing as tamper-proof seals, but they came up with tamper-evident. So if somebody came in and fooled around with a seal, it would become evident, and the client, the patient, would not take it.
The point is, think about what they did. Would that every organization would do it: "How could somebody else do the most damage to our pet product, our favorite product? They would have to apply for a license to operate. As part of that license to operate, they would have to have a crisis plan that would have to be reviewed periodically, a couple of times a year. It certainly is happening in the realm of privacy.
One of the things that we know is that the United States has some of the weakest privacy laws in the world, and the European Union has some of the strongest.
In the European Union, when you sign off and you check these boxes about what you agree to and how your data will be used it has to be written in the simplest, plainest language possible devoid of legal-beagle or at least translated and understandable. And you have to be informed if your data is going to be sold or used by so many—you have to be informed on a very timely basis. So the point is, there already exists a model in the Western industrialized world.
Privacy is the thing that sets us off, our data being sold, our most personal data. But now, as we were talking earlier, it has become even more prevalent with putting chips inside of us and tattoos and talking about the Food and Drug Administration. So the point is, it has broadened.
There is not a single aspect of our bodies or minds that is not subject to technology. But is there any legislation pending that would change the trajectory of it? But I think it will. Does it need to? Do they need to be regulated? And why is it? I appreciate it.
West Churchman. He is also the President of the consulting firm Mitroff Crisis Management. Mitroff has advised and influenced various academic, corporate, and government leaders in over twenty foreign countries. In September , he was awarded a gold medal by the UK Systems Society for his lifelong contributions to systems thinking. Mitroff is a member of editorial boards in several management and social science journals. Mitroff has published over articles and over 30 books. Founded in , this consulting firm is composed of a national network of specialists that conduct projects in crisis management.
Technology Run Amok: Crisis Management in the Digital Age, with Ian Mitroff
Withoutabox Submit to Film Festivals. Ian Mitroff MitroffThierry C. The last step is Learning. Mitroff Crisis Management MCM offers customized crisis programs tailored to the unique needs of individual companies and organizations.
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Ian is one of the founders of the crisis management discipline. Thank you for joining us today. Thank you for having me. Many proclaim its positive impact. Others point to the negative forces emotionally, physically, and socially.