May Be We Should Not Digitize Everything

Blog. Should all vulnerable infrastructure, products for babies and children and artificial body parts be digitized and be online in the future? Or are there areas that should not be a 100% digitized? Technological development dictates; digitize. But may be we humans should take the debate and say no to just some of it?
Recently, the power went off in the central Copenhagen. It didn’t last long, but it turned off our wifi, and at the same time the connection on my smartphone changed between being off and almost off. Only the husband’s new-old Nokia 3310 was full functional. It made me think – again: Should we really make ourselves 100%? dependent on power supply and the Internet? The technological development is so fast that our human brains can not follow. We simply don’t think about and discuss the possible positive and negative consequences of all new tech. Do we really want the society that this new technology offers?
Only rarely do we have time to debate it and possibly say no – or hit Pause. Like when American Mattel in the beginning of October 2017 stopped sending ‘Aristotle’ on the market.
Products for babies and children
In 2015, Mattel sent a WiFi-based doll, Hello Barbie, on the market despite major protests, as it monitors children – that is recognizes all conversation in the room and get to know them to be able to converse with the children  – which for many seem both creepy and unnecessary. The doll, which at the same time is relatively easy to hack, was never stopped and is currently on the market.
At the beginning of 2017, Mattel announced that now they are launching Aristotle, an AI-based object designed for the children’s room. It can turn on the light and calm crying babies at night with soothing sounds. It also get to know children in order to ‘help’ them. It’s even ready to help bigger children with their homework. However, the protests in the United States were massive. One reason was the question of privacy. Would Mattel use face recognition in the camera? Would Mattel sell this data to third parties? Children under the age of 13 in the United States (16 in the EU from May 2018) actually have a right to be at peace; companies, according to COPPA, may not collect data about children and use this data for targeted content and advertising as children are manipulable.

The other concern was that Aristotle could also have a negative impact on the upbringing of children – especially if Aristotle was used as a substitute for human care. Due to the massive protests, Mattel decided not to send Aristotle to the market.

Products for babies and children is one of the areas, where we should definitely consider not embedding chips, cameras, and other WiFi-based equipment, which could violate children’s right to privacy and destoy their free and parent-caring childhood. Few companies – like German Vai Kai or Danish LEGO – are spearheading a movement in that direction.

Artificial Organs and Medical Devices
Another area, where you may not always have to digitize, are artificial organs and medical devices. If you have a pacemaker or other artificial internal organs, should they be online, however convenient it may be? Pacemakers are and can be hacked. And what about your blood pressure meter or blood glucose meter, if you need any such? Should they be online? Can’t you just have your data on your own device and then send the results to your doctor, if that’s the purpose of having them online? The Consumer Council in Norway revealed in August 2017 that many of these devices, which are online and app-based, are deeply unsafe, privacy-violating and completely forget to give users control over their own data.

As more and more people drop the landline phone because they can save money, we should also debate as to whether we should maintain the landline phones that are not dependent on power and the Internet before telecom companies choose to drop them completely. Similarly, we should debate our boundaries for what we want to digitize and what we do not want to digitize within vulnerable infrastructure, products for children and artificial bodies.

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