Outcomes carry precedence over intentions

Consider these three scenarios:

1. You drink three cups of coffee and pull an all-nighter to finish that term paper due tomorrow. By 5 a.m., you finally hit the sack, only to sleep through your class and miss the turn-in deadline.

2. You feel like your wit is on point today and come up with a hilarious tweet that your friends will love. Instead, one of your Twitter followers comes across it on his newsfeed and winds up deeply offended.

3. You plan to make the two-hour trip home so you can surprise your mom for her birthday. However, last minute you get an email from your boss and she needs you to come in to work on Saturday night.

We have intentions that come with certain expectations. As with the cases above, sometimes the effects that occur, for whatever reason, do not align with our intentions. In these three instances, the intent was good: to get a paper in on time, to bring forth humor and to do something nice for you mother.

However, as we saw with the outcomes, something totally different and unplanned happened. And whether these consequences turn out to be problematic or for the better, they are unintended nonetheless.

And while having good intentions is important because it serves as a guide for our actions and behaviors, in the end, it is not as relevant as the actual result.

This concept becomes very important when we apply it to levels beyond the microsystem. Not only are our personal choices guided by intentions, but even decisions made by companies, governments and nations are made with an intended outcome that might not necessarily equate to the real effect.

Most recently, I have become concerned, yet intrigued, by this idea in regards to how we are progressing with technology.

In one of the MACS courses I am taking this semester, we have many discussions about Google operations, practices and ethics. This particular company has proved to be largely successful and continues to come out with new, innovative technologies while also providing us with free online services — and it obviously has to be doing well if it’s made its way into the dictionary.

Google bases their practices off of the motto, “Don’t be evil,” which ultimately means do the right thing — be moral and just. However, with all of Google’s huge steps forward with projects such as Google Glass and the self-driving car, there is still so much to consider in terms of how these inventions will impact society.

Many of these new products are glamorized in a way so that we think these large advancements in technology — like having a pair of glasses intended to let you take pictures, record videos, give you directions, send messages, research and so much more — are our future. We are blinded into thinking that new inventions, innovations and products will change us for the better.

But in doing so, it is easy to forget to consider the unintended effects of these products.

I will admit, upon watching the video for Google Glass, I thought, “Wow, this is incredible.”

And don’t get me wrong, it is. But upon further thought, I had issues and concerns regarding how this product would impact issues of surveillance, our interactions with others and even our privacy, which could be considered unintended effects of this product.

And same goes for the self-driving car. With hopes of making driving safer and more efficient, there are also considerations of how this Google project will have bigger impacts on jobs, future generations of drivers, police street patrol and more.

While these particular Google inventions are fascinating and well-intentioned, we need to be conscious of what the real effects might be. But at this point, we don’t know what they are. These products have not made their way into mass society, so we can’t say whether the effect will be mostly positive or come with a slew of problems.

It can be easy to slap the phrase, “Don’t be evil,” in front of a product and say that anything that ends up happening is justified because the initial intentions were positive.

In fact, I think that we do this all the time. We justify the impacts of our actions by what we originally intended to do. If we offended somebody, did a poor job or just plain dropped the ball on something, it’s all vindicated because that wasn’t what we meant to do.

So whether it is with our own personal choices or actions, or the choices of a larger entity, we should be guided by our objectives. At the same time, we must also consider the fact that the effect of what we do is more impactful than our intention, good or bad.

Nicki is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]