The Ethics of Technology

There is no doubt innovation has changed the course of human history, time and time again.

Many will debate what the best-ever invention has been. The wheel? The computer? The answer, of course, is the Thermos…it keeps the hot stuff hot and the cold stuff cold, but how does it know?

How do we really know anything anymore? In the race to push the envelope further, Innovation is always asking itself, “Could we make it?” The equally important question is, “Should we make it?” The balance of those two questions is key to working and living in an ever-expanding technological world.

Perhaps Darwin’s theories on evolution have larger implications. Today, everyone’s life is touched by the evolution of the things around them. Constant updates for equipment, apps, and life make us question the efficacy of the updates:

  • Invariably, the new version of the app or equipment has different functions than the old.
  • Some of the older version’s good points have been lost to less-efficient practices, effectively cancelling the “work smarter, not harder” mantra. A person is often steered away from a method that did the job with few or no problems toward one that requires extra safety measures and more work.

It’s getting ever harder to determine what’s real and what isn’t. Recent innovations in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and photo apps have further blurred the real from the generated. When I taught school, I knew plagiarism when I saw it or a “store-bought” essay. Some new AI-generated letters and reports are quite good, however.

Recent commercials tout cameras that can change or delete the distracting or negative parts of a photo. Can we trust photos today when they can be changed so quickly, easily, and without the once-obvious photoshop issues?

Alert: You are Still the Gatekeeper

Don’t delegate your role. One of your most important jobs is to decide whether an innovation will make your life (beyond the acceptable growing pains) simpler, richer, and/or more peaceful. It may be that some innovation is just change-for-the-sake-of-change, with the potential for more stress and more work. Legal professionals often encounter challenging decisions that centre on identification and documents during their work day. Identification-mills are creating better fake IDs…no more John Smith with a Sharpie mustache added. Some documents you are asked to witness may look very official but could be used to gather your signature for forgery and criminal purpose.

Remember when the early TV Reality Show genre was unveiled? They promised a fascinating glimpse into daily life, unscripted. We have learned those shows are just as “rehearsed and produced” as any other show. Many people who will become your clients have adopted those shows’ edginess into their own worldview.

We’ve all seen the latest-and-greatest ideas fall by the wayside, only to emerge cleverly rebranded. Some of today’s “new” technologies have been around for years in one form or another. There has always been a reason we have been wary of implementing them.

Accountability, Authenticity, Attention to detail, and Authorship of the process and product have traditionally been the hallmarks of our BC Notary profession.

Maintaining those “A” values won’t make you a technological dinosaur. As you consider how implementing the next innovation will fit into your practice’s equation, maximize the “A” qualities by balancing these two questions: Can I do this? Should I do this?


The Notary practice of Lisa Berry Vander Heide is in Creston, BC.

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