President Frank discusses Digital Technology

Further than 400 people picked to listen to German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier discuss technology ethics at a Harvard Law School event on Friday morning. Hosted by Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, the event — entitled “Ethics of Digital Transformation” — also featured professors studying in a variety of disciplines from both American and German universities. Steinmeier, speaking in German, kicked off the panel discussion by pointing out the prevalence of technology in today’s society. “The question that stands in the foreground is not ‘Do we need this technology?’” Steinmeier said. “No one denies the great chances, and the great opportunities that we have in the fight against poverty, the handling of climate issues, the fight against sickness.” From Steinmeier’s points about societal change and the future of democracy in relation to technology, the panelists discussed the benefits of using technology to fight global problems — including climate change — as well as the negative consequences.  Matthew Liao, a panelist and director for the Center of Bioethics at New York University spoke to concerns about the use of technology in medicine. He said the integration of technology into healthcare could reduce administrative costs, facilitate drug discovery, and aid with the vision of precision medicine. Liao highlighted “exciting developments” in this field, but also talked about data collection and privacy in medicine. “One of the biggest challenges with machine learning is that it requires a lot of data,” Liao said. “What that means is that someone has to go out there and collect all of this data, and then you get into issues about privacy — especially in healthcare. It’s personal data that we’re talking about.”