Computing and Social Welfare: Minimizing the Societal Harm From Digital Transformation While Preserving the Benefits of Innovation

Eric K. Clemons, Ravi Waran, Victoria Li, Sebastian Hermes, and Maximilian Schreieck (2020) – 54th Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences


Social Welfare Computing is an emerging discipline that seeks to direct technology to cause minimum social disruption, and in particular seeks to minimize the harm caused directly by technology. This is markedly different from the better understood strategic use of technology
to create value or to address existing social needs. Innovative technologies that are widely adopted created significant value for their users; otherwise they would not be widely adopted. Often the companies that create them obtain new sources of wealth and power, which inevitably lead to new abuses of power and new forms of societal disruption. Societal disruption in turn requires social adaptation, including new regulations to influence the behavior of firms and to define and to protect the rights of an individual in the changed society. Social Welfare Computing seeks to guide social adaptation, combining insights from disciplines as varied as anthropology, business strategy, economics, strategic planning, and law.

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