Category: Technology


Incentivizing Ethical Technologies

How can we incentivize technology innovations that nurture deeper human relationships? Increasingly I wonder if it is possible to do this with marketing technologies. The marketing technologies that scale and make money seem more and more to push the ethical boundaries of privacy and manipulation. For example, ultrasonic tracking.

Ideally, people would resist such infringements by 1) not using unethical technologies and 2) not purchasing from companies that employ unethical technologies and 3) expressing concern to politicians who could seek regulatory action against such technologies and the companies that use them. Of course, this would require A) transparency and B) willingness of people to act on what they feel is unethical and C) willingness of technology companies and their clients, as well as regulators, to respond to the concerns of people. I would not recommend holding your breath for this to happen.

While I am personally doubtful there will be near-term change in unethical marketing technologies, I do suspect there could be a significant backlash in the next 5-10 years. Sooner? Longer? But I do think a backlash will eventually take place. Here’s why. The feedback cycles inevitably will lead to overshoot. That’s when something keeps going on beyond the time when it can sustain itself. I think we are close to overshoot right now when it comes to marketing technologies. Many have already crossed the boundaries of ethical use. The feedback loop (negative reactions) just have not yet caught up. Eventually they will.