In a Covid19, #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter era, courageous business leaders are driving change in their organisations to create a better world.
The best leaders are turning to the methods found in philosophy, social science and the humanities to inspire innovation. They are looking to train their workforce in these new ways of thinking and hire skilled individuals to adopt new practices.
What is tech ethics?
The phrase ‘tech ethics’ is a relatively new one, and as such has taken on different meanings. These meanings depend on who is talking about tech ethics, and in which contexts. This diversity is good: doing the ‘right’ thing isn’t always going to look the same.
Those that describe themselves as working in ‘tech ethics’ tend to be focussed on similar goals. They are part of an ecosystem that is driving towards a future where business is motivated by more than just shareholder profit. We want businesses to actively contribute towards a world motivated by protecting the environment, promoting human rights, and creating communities that benefit everyone.
Beyond tech ethics, common terms to describe this work include: responsible innovation, values-led business, or even systems accountability. Being aware of this terminology helps us better understand what tech ethics is, and what it isn’t.
Tech ethics is not an opportunity to engage in highly academic discussions that are very interesting to have but ultimately do not encourage any meaningful change.
Tech ethics is about establishing an ethical framework to guide strategy and decision-making from the conception of an idea to a shipped product. It aims to make ‘unintended consequences’ a thing of the past, and to understand that your stakeholders include everyone that your technology touches.
Adjacent fields to tech ethics
Tech for good
Diversity and inclusion
Environment and sustainability
Anti... racism, slavery, discrimination and misogyny
Mental health and physical health
Fair corporate tax
The value of responsible business
What kind of world do you want to live in? A world where the environment is sustainable for human and animal life? Where there is no slavery? Where your family is safe and
free and human rights are upheld and protected? Where companies design for future wellbeing?
Or do you want to live in a world where work is only meaningful if it makes profit? Ethics helps us understand that growth is not everything. If a business grows in a way which exploits human and planetary resources, without giving anything back, eventually there will be nothing left — and no business left either.
One of the ways to embed trust into new and exciting technologies is to build them with ethics in mind.
We want to professionalise philosophy. All businesses are underpinned by theory. This might be an inherent belief in pragmatism, a trust in economic theory, or a theory of change. Theories are the starting point for experimentation with new revenue streams, and new iterations of the same product.
You'll ask questions like: why will this be useful for our clients / customers? How should we measure its success? How will we challenge ourselves to be better than our competitors? All these questions will need to be answered by a theory, and then you can use other methodological techniques to test them.
Using the philosophical method, you will become consistent and transparent about your theories and values. This leads to increased trust, better risk management and innovation.
Innovation comes from new ways of thinking. And the philosophical method was designed to help you think creatively and differently about your tasks, beliefs and processes.
What do we think ‘ethics’ is?
Crucially, we associate ethics with the philosophical method. Simon Blackburn defines the ethical environment as “the surrounding climate of ideas about how to live”. We believe in pluralism, and so we believe there are multiple ethical frameworks and models which could work in society and in organisations.
Our mission is to help you become consistent and transparent in expressing these values: through the work you do, the products you offer, and the way you describe yourselves.