The Tech Ethicist’s Manifesto

David N. Flinchum
7 min readApr 8, 2024


Photo by Lorenzo Herrera on Unsplash

The Green Code

Let’s face it: our tech world has an eco-problem. Data centers are energy hogs, and our beloved gadgets end up as mountains of e-waste. But here’s the cool part: we have the power to change this. Imagine writing code that’s lean and mean on energy use. Think about designing gadgets that last. This isn’t just eco-friendly; it’s smart business.

The Problem at Hand

Our tech ecosystem is thriving, but at what cost? Data centers across the globe consume an enormous amount of electricity, contributing significantly to carbon emissions. Meanwhile, the lifespan of our gadgets is shrinking, leading to an alarming increase in electronic waste. This cycle not only harms our planet but also challenges the sustainability of our industry.

The Power to Change

The silver lining? We, the tech community, hold the power to pivot towards a greener future. The solutions are within our grasp, and it’s time to shift our focus towards implementing them.

Lean, Green Coding

First up, let’s talk about the code. Every line of code runs on a server somewhere, and more often than not, those servers are powered by fossil fuels. But what if we optimized our code to be more efficient? By refining algorithms and reducing computational requirements, we can decrease the energy needed to run our applications. This isn’t just about cleaning up our codebase; it’s about rethinking our approach to development with energy efficiency in mind.

Designing for Durability

Moving on to hardware, the trend of designing gadgets with a limited lifespan needs a serious overhaul. The concept of built-in obsolescence is not only environmentally unsustainable but also frustrating for consumers. It’s time to design products that are built to last. This means using quality materials, making devices easy to repair, and providing support for older models through software updates. Creating durable gadgets might seem like a tall order, but it’s essential for reducing e-waste and promoting a more sustainable tech culture.

Smart Business Sense

Embracing the green code doesn’t just benefit the planet; it’s also smart business. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of environmental issues and are demanding more sustainable products. Companies that lead the way in green technology can tap into a growing market of environmentally conscious consumers. Moreover, optimizing code and designing durable products can lead to significant cost savings in the long run, through reduced energy consumption and fewer returns and repairs.

Privacy Matters

User data is sacred. It’s time we treat it that way. Encrypting data shouldn’t be an afterthought — it should be standard. And privacy? It’s not a premium feature. It’s a right. Full stop.

The Sacredness of Data

Data is more than just bits and bytes; it’s a diary of our digital lives. From our browsing habits to our personal conversations, everything we do online leaves a trail. This information is sacred, holding the key to our preferences, behaviors, and secrets. It’s high time we start treating user data with the respect it deserves.

Encryption as Standard Practice

Encryption should be the bedrock of data security, not an optional add-on. Whether it’s a small startup or a tech giant, safeguarding user data through encryption should be a foundational practice. This means encrypting data at rest, in transit, and during processing. By making encryption standard, we not only protect individuals’ privacy but also build trust and credibility in the digital ecosystem.

Privacy: A Fundamental Right

Privacy is not a luxury; it’s a fundamental human right that must be upheld and protected. In an era where personal information is a commodity, it’s crucial that privacy remains non-negotiable. This means giving users full control over their data: the ability to access, correct, and delete their information. Transparency about how data is collected, used, and shared should be the norm, not the exception.

The Ethical Imperative

The responsibility of protecting privacy extends beyond legal compliance; it’s an ethical imperative. Tech companies must prioritize ethical considerations in their product designs and business models. This includes implementing privacy-by-design principles, conducting regular privacy audits, and being proactive in addressing potential privacy risks. By doing so, we can ensure that technology serves humanity without compromising individual rights.

Rethinking Data Collection

There’s a tendency to collect more data than necessary. It’s time to challenge this norm and adopt a minimalist approach to data collection. Only collect what’s essential for the service, and when possible, anonymize and aggregate data to minimize the risk of misuse. By being judicious about the data we collect, we can minimize the privacy risks to individuals and society at large.

Empowering Users

Empowering users with knowledge and tools to protect their privacy is crucial. This means providing clear, accessible information about privacy policies and offering easy-to-use privacy settings. Educating users about the risks and how to safeguard their digital presence can go a long way in building a more privacy-conscious digital world.

AI With Conscience

AI is our future. But let’s be real: it needs a moral compass. We’re shaping systems that make big decisions. It’s crucial these decisions are fair, transparent, and, well, human-friendly. Let’s code AI that mirrors the best of us.

The Moral Compass for AI

As we stand on the brink of a future dominated by artificial intelligence, it’s becoming increasingly clear that AI needs more than just sophisticated algorithms and computing power. It requires a moral compass. We’re at a pivotal moment where the decisions made by AI systems can have profound impacts on individuals and societies. These decisions must be guided by ethical principles, ensuring they are fair, transparent, and aligned with human values.

Fairness in AI

The cornerstone of ethical AI is fairness. This means developing algorithms that are free from biases, whether it’s race, gender, age, or any other discriminatory factor. Achieving this requires a conscious effort from the onset, starting with diverse datasets that accurately reflect the world’s diversity. But it’s not just about the data. It’s about the people behind the AI, too. Teams developing these systems must be as diverse as the datasets they use, bringing a wide range of perspectives to the table to identify and mitigate biases that might not be apparent to a more homogenous group.

Transparency and Accountability

Transparency in AI is another critical pillar. Users should understand how and why an AI system made a particular decision. This transparency is essential not only for trust but for accountability. When AI systems impact people’s lives, there needs to be a clear line of responsibility. This means having mechanisms in place to audit AI decisions and, if necessary, correct them. Implementing explainable AI technologies can help demystify the decision-making process, making it accessible and understandable to the average user.

Human-Centric Design

At its heart, AI should be human-friendly. This means designing systems that augment human capabilities and improve lives while respecting our autonomy and freedom. AI should be a tool for empowerment, not control. This human-centric approach should be reflected in every stage of AI development, from conception to deployment, ensuring that the technology serves the public good and enhances our collective wellbeing.

Ethical Guidelines and Frameworks

To guide the development of conscientious AI, ethical guidelines and frameworks are crucial. These guidelines should be developed collaboratively, involving ethicists, technologists, policymakers, and the public, to ensure a broad consensus on what ethical AI looks like. International standards can help harmonize efforts, ensuring that AI ethics are not an afterthought but a foundational element of all AI initiatives.

The Role of Education and Awareness

Fostering an informed dialogue about the ethical dimensions of AI is essential. This means integrating ethics into the curriculum for computer science and related fields, ensuring that the next generation of technologists understands the importance of building AI with a conscience. Public education campaigns can also play a role in raising awareness about the benefits and risks of AI, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about the technology in their lives.

Innovate With Intention

The big message here? Tech needs to be more than just innovative. It should be responsible, ethical, and, above all, human-centric. We’ve got the brains and the technology. Now let’s use them to build a world we’re proud to pass on.

Beyond Innovation

In the relentless rush towards the next big thing in technology, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of innovation for its own sake. However, the true measure of progress isn’t just in what technology can do; it’s in what it should do. The call to innovate with intention is a reminder that our technological pursuits should be anchored in responsibility, ethics, and a focus on human welfare. We have the intellectual prowess and the technological resources at our disposal. The challenge now is to channel these assets into creating solutions that not only push the boundaries of what’s possible but also safeguard the principles of what’s right.

The Legacy of Technology

The technology we develop today is the legacy we leave for future generations. Innovating with intention is about building a world that we can be proud to pass on, one where technology serves as a force for good, promoting well-being, equality, and sustainability. By embracing this mindset, we have the opportunity to redefine the narrative of technological progress, ensuring that it’s not just about the advancements we achieve but also about the positive impact we make.

Join the Movement

It’s time to pivot from just disrupting to actively caring. Whether you’re in a garage startup or a tech titan, the future is in our hands. Let’s code, design, and innovate for a future where tech is a force for good. Together, we can make it happen. Let’s get to work.



David N. Flinchum

David N. Flinchum: Visionary tech entrepreneur & keynote speaker. Pioneer in AI ethics, bestselling author, and avid mountain climber and advocate.