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Communications of the ACM

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Responsible Research and Innovation in the Digital Age

Responsible Research and Innovation in the Digital Age, illustration

Credit: Suat Gursozlu

At a time when increasingly potent technologies are being developed with the potential to transform society, researchers in all technological fields, including information and communications technology (ICT), are under growing pressure to consider and reflect on the motivations, purposes, and possible consequences associated with their research. This pressure comes from the general public, civil society, and government institutions. In parallel is a growing recognition that current ethics review procedures within ICT may not address broader concerns (such as the potential societal consequences of innovation).

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Instances of ICT raising concerns abound. For example, along with attention-grabbing headlines that artificial intelligence (AI) could ultimately pose an existential threat to humankind, there are more prosaic, yet strongly felt, social transformations already associated with AI technologies. For example, AI is an increasingly powerful protagonist in the story of how digital technologies are transforming the nature of work, as more types of work are mediated digitally, including how it is allocated, assessed, and rewarded. With these new forms of digital agency driving important aspects of labor markets, questions arise as to whose interests are being served and how accountability and transparency can be assured.


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