Mary Shelley’s dark and chilling novel Frankenstein is more than a thrilling read, for the CIO community it remains a stark and timely warning.
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change,” Shelley’s protagonist states and in the wide ranging discussions we have with the CIO Network it is clear that cultural change continues to be the greatest problem organisations face. But it is not just our organisations that are changing, technology is reshaping society. The impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotics have entered into mainstream discourse. As with every new iteration of technology the debates is fuelled by fear.
Within our network we are largely positive towards these new technologies and rightly so. The Horizon CIO Podcast has seen peers from legal, FMCG and health sectors discuss how AI can reduce error rates, empower teams to add value and not be mired in process actions. But as a CIO community we have a responsibility to ensure these developments change our organisations and the society that is dependent on us positively. Because, failure to do so will reflect poorly on all CIOs.
“A fiend had snatched from me every hope of future happiness,” Frankenstein says. Apologies for the spoilers if you haven’t read Shelley’s novel, but thanks to cinema it is misconstrued that Frankenstein is the story of a monster. In truth this is the story of a creator who in his excitement failed to recognise the full impact of all those late night scrums to create his ultra efficient human being – a precursor to today’s robots and AI.
“I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race,” Shelley warns.
For those of us in technology, we have to take time and think of the broader picture of the impact of what we do.
Do not for one moment think I am suggesting halting the development and adoption of the latest wave of technologies. To do so would be foolish. But, it is in the power of us as a community to ensure the adoption and development of these technologies is universally beneficial. As the CIO community drives forward digital technologies, are we, for example, ensuring that every geography our organisation touches sees this benefit?
I do not believe we can answer the above question positively. There are a number of organisations that are developing digital practices in the hot spots of London, Manchester and Dublin. Those same organisations are critical employers is cities in East Anglia, the south coast, the North, Scotland and Wales. New digital methods will bring amazing efficiencies and that is to be applauded, but those regions need to given the same digital opportunities as the capital.
This nation knows all too well the cost of failing to provide a sustainable future for communities in former industrial cities.
“Had I a right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations,” Frankenstein asks himself. Throughout Shelley’s novel Dr Frankenstein grapples with his own mistakes, he regrets his creation, but the monster regrets not the creation, but the failure to recognise impact.