There is a legendary tale about Abraham Lincoln that tells of him saving a burlap bag full of unwanted piglets that had been tossed into a river to die. Upon diving into the river and saving the porcine payload, onlookers remarked what an upstanding and moral person he was. To which Mr. Lincoln responded, “Am I really moral or do I just wish to appear so?”

In today’s world, where time shrinks at an ever-increasing pace between what was once considered to be science fiction becoming science fact, the question becomes, “Just because we can do it, should we do it?”

With the advent of the gig economy and the constant disruption of business as usual, there may be no choice but to accept that how we work today will not be how we work tomorrow. And this applies to how both nonprofit businesses and mission-driven associations continue their operations.

For example, as Amazon continues to enhance its delivery-to-the-curb options, competing, traditional brick-and-mortar companies such as Walmart and Publix are introducing similar delivery services. While this may lead to a reduction in the workforce needed to work in the companies physical shopping locations, opportunities to work in the delivery area will expand.

As the field of machine learning expands the development of algorithms that endow computers with an artificial intelligence, the opportunities for nonprofits and associations to use software instead of people to optimize fundraising and member drives will also increase.

Image how fundraising efforts could be maximized using software that would:

  • Predict a demographic most open to financially supporting a certain cause
  • Identify a geographical area most in need of funds raised
  • Optimize how funds are best managed and dispersed

Or how associations could benefit from software that:

  • Identifies trends in their sphere of influence that can predict the outcomes that affect health and welfare
  • Identifies a demographic that may be more sympathetic to an association’s cause
  • Coordinates how association members can best use their efforts in support of a cause

Perhaps we should stop fearing a future of computing that embraces machine learning or artificial intelligence, and the view that predicts machines will take over control of this planet displacing humans as the dominant species – a fantastical science fiction staple since the 1950s. Instead, we should consider how technology, overall, has improved the human condition. From advances in medicine to improvements in transportation, people are living much better than they did even 100 years ago.

Remember, none of this is for the greater glory of the nonprofit or association of people implementing these new software algorithms, but it is for the advancement of a cause or common goal that hopefully leaves the world around us a better place.

So, when using this new technology, maybe it would be good to think about not only how you appear to others, but what you are accomplishing when you act.