Ethical Innovation: A summary of a Whiteboard@SonicRim session

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… a promo for Netflix’s Black Mirror series, the current pre-eminent critical commentary on technology

Background

As technology spreads into the most intimate aspects of our lives, overlooking possible consequences of our innovations can lead to dire social impact. Disruptive innovations can cause harm at a mass scale and quickly. Our capacity to do harm can outstrip our capacity to mitigate the harm. It has become clear that the need to establish “ethical foresight” practice has now become an imperative.

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Challenges

Cultural challenges relate to beliefs and norms in the organization. In general, organizational culture rewards cooperation and compliance, and frowns upon constructive skepticism. Raising ethical red flags is often seen as irrelevant to the concerns of the team or the interests of the organization: the bottom-line and gratification of consumer desires. Consequently, people who bring up ethical considerations may be seen as making it harder for others to be efficient and productive.

Practices

The group discussed a variety of practices and tactics for supporting ethics considerations;

  1. Use peer pressure dynamics to normalize ethics discussions
  2. Prototype failure: tell imagined horror stories of things going wrong
  3. Hire more kinds of people
  4. Make it part of the mission to do more good, not just to avoid doing evil
  5. Recognize that figuring out ethical courses of action is difficult, and set expectations appropriately on how quickly ethical issues are resolved
  1. Applaud saying “no” for ethics reasons; incentivize and measure this behavior
  2. Create measures for ethical risks (which appear later) to supplement ROI measures (which apply to the near future)
  3. Create standards and metrics for profiling an organization’s commitment to ethical innovation
  4. Create an organizational ethics board that performs reviews and gives guidance
  • People in other countries
  • People in relationships with our customers and users
  • Future humans
  • Non-human beings
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In summary,

While our short discussion barely scraped the surface of these issues, it has triggered interest in continuing the conversation.

SonicRim: Stories from the Edge

Thoughts and provocations on co-creation, design research…

Thanks to Ash Anderson

Arvind Venkataramani

Written by

design researcher at sonicrim. i sense and work towards emergent futures. help me make the world a place of flourishing for all life.

SonicRim: Stories from the Edge

Thoughts and provocations on co-creation, design research and innovation

Arvind Venkataramani

Written by

design researcher at sonicrim. i sense and work towards emergent futures. help me make the world a place of flourishing for all life.

SonicRim: Stories from the Edge

Thoughts and provocations on co-creation, design research and innovation

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