The 10 Point Ethical Digital Design Manifesto

Let’s not turn ethics into a marketing ploy or channel for vanity publishing. If people are concerned with threats to humanity (and the non-human world too) in the here and now; there are many problems, that have greater significance than the potential future impact of a yet to be defined technology like artificial intelligence. Rather than luddites, we should progressively work to realise the value of new technologies and practically deal with the barriers to that — that requires all kinds of knowledge, skills and people — not just designers.However, as that is our practice how do we reconcile the separation between individual and social needs through our work?

1. Sensing Care
 Jonathan Ives; makes a really strong point on ethical design — ‘I think subconsciously people are remarkably discerning. I think that they can sense care. Good design. It’s like good anything good cooking driving engineering it’s a duty of care. We should aspire to be the best. Do the best research, design, facilitation we can possibly do. We have spade loads of passion, lets balance that with a ton of pride in our profession. As the great Ian Dury said:
 ‘Here’s a little piece of advice
 You’re quite welcome it is free
 Don’t do nothing that is cut price
 You know what that’ll make you be

They will try their tricky device
 Trap you with the ordinary
 Get your teeth into a small slice
 The cake of liberty’

2. For the People
Papanek wrote: ‘Much recent design has satisfied only evanescent wants and desires, while the genuine needs of man have often been neglected by the designer.’ Is what we do good? Convenience? Making banking easier? Automation? Who is that good for? Some users may not exist or know implications. The great thing is we have a great process that put human values at the centre of what we do — we merely need to extend human-centred design from instrumental to ethical values and not get dragged into philistinism, recognise the value of the academic model of contribution.

3. Fantastic, Feasible Futures
 Design futurism is redundant — that kind of blue-sky thinking, where everything is shiny but is never built must go. Except in explicating the moral issues of our age. Using our creative tools and methods to prototype stuff to understand ethical issues and go beyond current horizon participation to design anthropology. Don’t over promise on design either, but apply its power to envision, what others might never conceive of. Consider misuse too, not just the positive stuff, but use future stories to anticipate how simple stuff might be turned to harm, so we can protect against it.

4. Be Reasonable — Demand the Impossible
 Papanek also wrote ‘I have tried to demonstrate that by freely giving 10 percent of his time, talents, and skills the designer can help. In other words, a willingness to volunteer’ We need to democratise design, move to constructivism, open our platforms, share data and where possible leverage design thinking and doing to deliver real positive change. But being realistic, design has limits, so if you want to change the world, do as Lenin suggested and rigorously find and do ‘what is to be done’.

5. All About the Data
We have a very specific role as guardians of personal data. Not just the obvious, data protection stuff, but rather in ensuring all this informational madness is carefully balanced with due diligence to put the fuzzy, humanist, qualitative stuff in the equation(s). It’s critical we do really good research and that it focuses on surfacing critical insights into human behaviour relating to core ethical values such as autonomy and benefiance.

6. Good Tools
Develop ways of identifying and supporting good decision making based on ethical principles. Codify these into tools and share with the wider community.

7. Get Your House in Order
Start by making sure your own practice has a defined ethical code to work by.

8. Fix the Frame
Wherever possible shift the frame of design work forward and wider.

9. Flex your Ethical Instincts
Look at the decisions you need to make in terms of their affect on others. What are all of the options, how can you anticipate their future impact?

10. Knowing me, Knowing you
Understand your own moral codes and be aware of others, they are almost certain to be differences.