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Digital Resiliency

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As human beings shape technology in entirely new directions, the number of technological solutions are also increasing in order to keep pace with such rapid development. As Brown & Seely asserted in their piece “Response to Bill Joy and the Doom-and-Gloom Technofuturists”:

Technology and society are constantly forming and reforming new dynamic equilibriums with far-reaching implications. The challenge […] is to see beyond the hype and past the over-simplifications to the full import of these new socio-technical formations.

As Brown & Seely asserted, social and technological systems evolve together in complex feedback loops rather than independently on their own. Sometimes, they may accelerate each other, at other times, they may restrain each other in a mutual way.

Despite all kinds of disruptions that these new technologies cause in all aspects of our lives, including the social, cultural and economic ones, the focus should be on this process of the constant recreation of new dynamic equilibriums. Although technological change may cause some consequential change, there lies important value in the very act of living amidst such change.  

Needless to say, human beings have been gifted with the amazing ability to adapt to changes in their environment despite the adversities they may face. In this way, they learn to be resilient over time. Experiences that may possibly entail some level of risk due to the occasional failures involve great wisdom when developing new technologies while trying to learn how to live with them at the same time. Not only do innovation and change provide future possibilities for entrepreneurialism and invention, but they also enable individuals to see the changes in the societal attitudes toward new technologies. By doing this, individuals will also find new methods to cope with such a rapid pace of technological change while discovering new norms and creative solutions.

This process of living through amazing change relates to the skill of resiliency. In their book Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, the authors Zolli & Healy define resilience as “the capacity of a system, enterprise, or a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances.” (p. 7) Moreover, these authors also refer to the concept of adaptive capacity in case an individual should resist being pushed from one’s preferred valley, while expanding the range of alternatives that one can adopt if required. In other words, individuals should be equipped with the ability to adapt to changed circumstances while fulfilling the main goal.

Such a skills is especially required in an age of unforeseeable disruption and volatility. A mindset that tries to preserve its skills for adaptive capacity will no longer find it difficult to embrace adaptation, agility, cooperation, connectivity, and diversity when it comes to dealing with these technological changes.

Muddling through in our daily life full of with such amazing technologies may not be a comfortable experience though. Nevertheless, we still have to gain an awareness of both the benefits and costs of taking an alternative path. Although delaying various types of technological change may be tempting as it requires less effort, it would end in fewer choices for individuals. Spending much of our time by worrying of worst-case scenarios will never end in possible best-case scenarios.

As Burke once stated,

“Manners are of more importance than laws. Manners are what [..] corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in.”

According to the famous behavioral ethicist Bicchieri, social norms should better be referred to as “the grammar of society” as they underlie what is acceptable and what is not in a social group. Similar to the rules of the grammar, such norms of behavior help us to cope and “muddle through” over time more than the laws can regulate our behavior.

Technological innovation can be viewed as a form of adaptation to both external circumstances and prior adaptations. In a similar vein, during our process of adapting several of AI technologies, we may have difficulties when muddling through these new technologies mostly due to our wrong assumptions about the individuals being replaced by robots or other types of AI technologies. Yet, asserting that individuals will have nothing to do is to dramatically curtail human creativity.

As we increase our ability for adaptive capacity we will become better human beings because of what we have learned in the process, just as we did in the past. We only need to have a little faith in ourselves to adjust to an uncertain future regardless of what we may be thrown at.

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Ayse Kok
Ayse completed her masters and doctorate degrees at both University of Oxford (UK) and University of Cambridge (UK). She participated in various projects in partnership with international organizations such as UN, NATO, and the EU. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Bosphorus University in her home town Turkey. Furthermore, she is the editor of several international journals, including those for Springer, Wiley and Elsevier Science. She attended various international conferences as a speaker and published over 100 articles in both peer-reviewed journals and academic books. Having published 3 books in the field of technology & policy, Ayse is a member of the IEEE Communications Society, member of the IEEE Technical Committee on Security & Privacy, member of the IEEE IoT Community and member of the IEEE Cybersecurity Community. She also acts as a policy analyst for Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research. Currently, she lives with her family in Silicon Valley where she worked as a researcher for companies like Facebook and Google.

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