December 26, 2018

Ethical design as “the next big thing”

BY :     December 26, 2018

Now 2018 is turning into 2019 we all may have a bit of time for reflection and thinking. How are we doing in tech? Where is it going? What is the “next big thing”?

I think the next big thing is “ethical design”.

Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots are here to stay now. The voice as interface will, without doubt, become more important. Blockchain may have a great breakthrough in 2019 and maybe mixed reality will finally become part of our daily life.

But for me, the next big thing is not a new technology, but “ethical design”.

One of the thought leaders for this subject is Cennyd Bowles, former designer at Twitter. He held a talk in 2014 which I think is getter more and more relevant every year. Very interesting to listen to and think about at the turn of the year.

In his more recent book “Future ethics” he describes the most important ethical challenges of our  time as:

  • unintended consequences and algorithmic bias,
  • the troubling power of persuasive technology,
  • the dystopias of surveillance, autonomous war, and a post-work future.

A must read if you are interested in this subject.

Ethical design is not about having a simple judgement whether a product (or service or system) is ethically good or bad. It is about explicitly thinking and discussing the ethical aspects of the product. Several questions can help in doing this, like:

  • what would be the effect if my product would be used globally by millions?
  • which people will “win” thanks to this product; and which will lose?
  • how can my product be misused by people with bad intentions?
  • what is the effect of my product for people who are not stakeholder?
  • how would people from other cultures look at my product?
  • can my product be used by disabled people?
  • etcetera

In the end, it’s about the question if the product you are designing will make the world a bit better or not. Would you be willing to put your signature on the product? And would you be able to explain it to your grandchildren many years from now?.

Things to think about during the Christmas holidays.

André Helderman

About

André Helderman has studied both Business Information Technology and Organizational Sociology which makes clear that he is interested in the impact of technology on human behavior.

More on André Helderman.

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*Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group