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Ramesh Srinivasan: Are We Using Technology or Are We Being Used?

Ramesh Srinivasan, UCLA Professor of Information Studies and Digital Media Arts

UCLA Professor of Information Studies and Design Media Arts Ramesh Srinivasan took part in a Q&A with UCLA Newsroom titled, “Are we using technology or are we being used?” to discuss the interconnections between technology, politics and society in the wake of insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“Technology companies waited until the halls of government were breached, people were killed, and the integrity of our government process interrupted before banning the president’s presence on social media,” said Professor Srinivasan to Newsroom. “What should government do or what body should regulate these companies in the future so that extremist efforts cannot make it this far?

“Technology companies have business models, but those cannot come at the cost of everything else — we need to create a balance between business interests, and the public’s interest… We have an opportunity to take proactive steps to have inclusive benefits and to protect our rights as workers, citizens and people. I truly believe we are at an inflection point where we can take these steps.” 

Srinivasan’s research investigates technology’s relationship to democracy and politics, public health, policy, social change, economic development, distance learning, migration studies and cultural heritage. He has worked in more than 70 countries studying internet/social media technologies, artificial intelligence, big data’s impacts on political life, economic concerns, and cultural and global effects.

“We need to figure out ways for algorithmic systems to have more collaborative design, so they don’t come out racist, misogynistic and discriminatory,” Srinivasan said in the Q&A. “Is it the intention of a tech company to be racist? Of course not, but this is what happens when you think you can do everything in house, when executives and engineers do not represent the demographics of society.”

Professor Srinivasan is the founder of the University of California’s system-wide Digital Cultures Lab. His most recent book, “Beyond the Valley” (MIT Press), which has been named a top 10 book in tech by Forbes, illustrates the potential for a digital world that supports the interests of environmental sustainability, democracy, workers, cultural diversity, and businesses. 

To read the Q&A with Professor Srinivasan by Elizabeth Kivowitz and Melissa Abraham in UCLA Newsroom, click here.

Photo by USI Events