The 2019 Ethical Digital Study Tour: Making Good
The ethics of digital technology affects all of us, all the time. As automated decision-making systems become ever more common, there are fewer opportunities to opt out of engaging with digitized systems in our private lives, at work and in society. Those of us involved in designing and building these systems have increasing responsibility to ensure they do not create or exacerbate harm. We must be ethical in our design of digital.
The home of the digital revolution may be Silicon Valley, but for Ethical Digital the gravitational centres are different. This tour visited London and New York. Both these hubs share a unique mix of innovation capital; regional, national and international policy frameworks; and robust academic and privately funded research institutions all focused on ethical automated decision systems. London in particular is leading the way on driving regulatory and policy frameworks, with the UK’s stated goal of crafting policies that have an outsize impact on global behaviour in the same way that GDPR has impacted privacy practices far beyond the EU’s borders. New York is also taking legislative strides ahead of the rest of the nation in terms of algorithmic auditing and has long been the home of a different ethos in capital investment to that of Silicon Valley, with some of the earliest and most active firms intent on reaping the rewards of investing in under-represented groups. These are the key factors that give London and New York the right conditions to incubate what will become common practice for Ethical Digital.
At the start of this tour, delegates were grappling with questions such as:
- Who is governing ethical implications and what process is right for your organization?
- Where do you start? What’s your scope and how do you prioritize?
- How do you realize financial and cultural gains from ethical technology use?
- Risk vs reward: how do you balance conflicting ethical concerns?
- How do you keep up with emerging practices?
So, the tour covered Ethical Digital:
- Evolution – Key ethical concepts such as fairness and how they relate to the digital age
- Practice – Best and next practice in operating Ethical Digital, including governance
- Value propositions – Beyond the mitigation of risk to ethical stance and guiding business development
- Barriers and solutions – What stops Ethical Digital and how to overcome that
There was an immediate hunger for pithy insights, then frameworks that drew insights together to make wider sense of them, and later, links to detailed assets that would help beyond the tour. So, this study tour report gives you the insights first, the story and frameworks second, and links to the top assets third.