Arizona Technology and Innovation: The Unintended Consequences of Technology

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We’ll probably see driverless cars on the road in the near future. While that may make our lives easier, there will be consequences for state and local governments, who depend on traffic tickets as a source of revenue. That’s just one example of how technology will have outcomes that may not be desired by some. Arizona State University School of Public Affairs professor Kevin DeSouza will discuss how innovation could produce unintended consequences.

TED SIMONS: Tonight's edition of "Arizona Technology and Innovation" looks at how driverless cars and other new technologies could impact state and local governments. Joining us now is ASU School of Public Affairs professor Kevin DeSouza. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

KEVIN DESEOUZA: Thanks for having me.

TED SIMONS: Unintended consequences of technology. What are we talking about here?

KEVIN DESEOUZA: So a lot of the emerging technologies that are coming out in the marketplace, they are going to provide enormous positive benefits to local government to -- to individuals and also to organizations. And so those are the highlights that have been covered by the media, and other places. What our research has examined is what happens when those technologies have unintended consequences. So as an example, when you have automated vehicles, obviously we are going to have fewer road accidents. Obviously we will have fewer -- fewer incidents of individuals driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or things of that nature. Those are all good. However, local governments are also going to lose revenue because you're going to have fewer cars will be in the marketplace. You will have fewer insurances because the whole insurance industry that is based on you and I driving is -- is going to have to change its model, where individuals are not going to be paying for services. So there are a lot of unintended consequences. And especially local governments are going to feel the greatest impact because we all operate in a local government context.

TED SIMONS: Even something like parking meters and parking meter notification systems, they are probably already starting to affect that.

KEVIN DESEOUZA: Absolutely. We examined the data in Washington, D.C. So now you have an app that alerts you twelve minutes, eight minutes prior to your meter expiring and you can automatically update the meter. Whereas previously you would have to run out or risk getting a parking violation, and now the local governments lose out on those revenues. The real tricky thing is, the loss of these revenues does not just impact one aspect of local governments. Revenues like parking tickets impact how they work on parks and communities and things of that nature.

TED SIMONS: Indeed. So we talk about driverless cars and parking meters and these things. Drones, artificial intelligence, we're already hearing about drones but A.I., as well. Talk about the impact municipalities might feel from these things.

KEVIN DESEOUZA: So drones is a nice example to use. Very recently you had an individual who for about $800 was able to weaponize a drone. You go and get an off-the-shelf drone, very basic, basic technology and you have a weapon. So local governments have not yet grasped the reality on what to do with these things. Drones also, so about a year back, or maybe a couple years back, Amazon tried to bail out the U.S. Postal Service by giving them an option to deliver their goods on the weekend. But now Amazon is actually experimenting with drones that will automatically deliver stuff. The whole trucking industry is going to be completely transformed with automated vehicles and things of that nature.

TED SIMONS: So basically the idea is municipalities, states, local governments, they better get ready not only for the infrastructure, the law enforcement and rules and regulations needed but the loss of revenue.


TED SIMONS: Okay. I notice that immigration, there's supposed to be a significant impact on immigration, as well. And even an impact on income and equality. Talk to us about that.

KEVIN DESEOUZA: Income inequality is one of those things we have seen the gap widen over the last few years on a number of different dimensions. What automated technologies have the propensity to do is make that even worse. With previous revolutions that have happened with information technologies you had individuals displaced through automation. However, they had a chance to enter another career. Whereas right now the bar to enter another career is so high that the ability for you to retool yourself to enter that career is very low. And a lot of the automation is going after jobs that unfortunately are sources of income for the lower end of the economic ladder.

TED SIMONS: And that would impact radicalization of some of these young folks, correct?

KEVIN DESEOUZA: So radicalization is an independent issue. That's going happen regardless of income inequality. But income inequality does have the potential to aggravate that further. Radicalization in my mind has to do with the fact that the conflict environments of the world, and especially the conflicts that we are dealing with, today we have an enormous amount of media, where individuals locally are getting radicalized, whether it's in New York or Philadelphia or even Arizona. What these emerging technologies are doing is allowing you to connect globally much more easier than locally. So just as an example If you were to ask the average resident of Phoenix, do you know the phone number of your neighbor, chances are probably no. But do you know individuals across the globe? Yes. So the propensity to get radicalized, especially for those who are already on a very negative trajectory will increase. Emerging technologies have a huge propensity for this.

TED SIMONS: We set our table and it's a little concerning and disquieting. How can we be more proactive in managing new technology what, can governments do?

KEVIN DESEOUZA: So the number one thing that I would advise my colleagues, you need to be thinking about radical innovation right now. Don't just think about how to make small tweaks. When you think about automated vehicles, drones, smart environments, the whole sharing economy, right, don't just think these are not going to happen. They are happening and they are happening at a pace that is fast. And so how do you get your agencies to appreciate this reality? How do you engage your community in a dialogue about what is acceptable and what is not. And how do you begin the process of transforming your agency right now? Because you are not going to have time to react. And if you only wait to react, the technologies are going to dictate what you're going to do. They have to experiment, they have to engage the communities in the dialogue and they have to have sustained respect of radical innovation.

TED SIMONS: Very interesting stuff. Good to have you here.


TED SIMONS: Thank you for joining us.


Kevin DeSouza: Arizona State University School of Public Affairs professor

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