You’re tackling important questions about ethical invention and I understand the view of process — in essence, of making ethical research and decision-making simultaneous with product development rather than serial to it, if I have that right. I like that.

But I’m left with a number of questions that would be addressed with some specific examples of how you see this working. Primarily, I want to know first what skills are needed in the team (legal, ethical, anthropological, psychological….) and second on what basis these decisions are made; does this rely on:

  • sets of principles already agreed upon;
  • reaction from users and others affected;
  • observed examination of impact;
  • external prior review against a set of rules (an IRB);
  • scenario-making in the team (what could possibly go wrong?);
  • checks against the growing set of relevant laws (e.g., GDPR)?

If the process requires external input (from users or boards) then the product would need to be defined with sufficient clarity that the people being consulted would understand its implications. If the process requires internal review of scenarios and implications then the team would need not only a variety of perspectives (thus the critical importance of diversity, you’re right) but also a variety of experience and expertise (thus my first question, which addresses the fear that especially Silicon Valley is just too insular).

In short, I’m eager to hear more and more specific application of your proposal.


Blogger & prof at CUNY’s Newmark J-school; author of Geeks Bearing Gifts, Public Parts, What Would Google Do?, Gutenberg the Geek