The Need for a New Design Ethics

“How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds everyday” July 26, 2017 — 17 minutes 

Never before in history have such a small number of designers – a handful of young, mostly male engineers, living in the Bay Area of California, working at a handful of tech companies – had such a large influence on two billion people’s thoughts and choices.

We check our phones more than 150 times per day. Knowledge workers spend a third of their day in email. Teenagers (aged 14-17) send 4,000 texts/month, or every six minutes awake. The more we live by our screens and spend time there, the more we live by their design choices.

That’s a lot of power. Just like a city shapes the lives of its inhabitants, software shapes the lives of it users. Therefore software is a domain of great responsibility.

  • How do we make sure designers use the wisest moral operating system when making choices on our behalf?
  • How do they distinguish between what’s good for business and what’s good for society – or even navigate these situations clearly?
  • How do we align their design goals with our goals for how we want to live life?
  • How do they catch and minimize unintended negative social and behavioral externalities?
  • How do we hold designers accountable for their influence over people’s choices?

This is Design Ethics. My goal is help create this conversation.

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