Tech Ethics on a Living Planet

It is time for a new approach to tech ethics.

Reductionism, narrowly focused optimization, and pursuit of the profit motive have pushed the planet beyond its stable boundaries in almost all living systems.

The future is on the line. It is past time for a scientific revolution.

I’m here to help you do your part.

Tech + Wisdom = A Better World

Hi! I’m Seonaid, and I’ve been working my entire adult life on one problem:

What does it take to build ethical technology?

For me, tech ethics starts with the question of being accurate about our impact in the world.

It requires a willingness to ask hard questions a lot earlier in the process of developing new systems. It demands openness to feedback and a willingness to listen and speak up. And it needs us to develop expertise in courage, relationship and communication skills, deep critical thinking, and intellectual humility.

My bold vision is one of an intentional shaping of a better future – one in which technology serves the living systems of the planet, and in which human needs are universally addressed. For this, we need a framework of Intentional Emergence.

Intentional Emergence

Tech skills on their own can get us into deep trouble. They give us far more power than we are evolved to manage, and let us impact things we didn’t even know about.

The truth is that our work in the world is almost certainly having effects on a suite of complex systems that we haven’t included in our model.

To do this well, we need to be right about three things:

  1. The nature of technology
  2. The nature of complex systems
  3. The nature of people

Technology is never neutral. It creates order somewhere in the world at the expense of making a mess somewhere else. It always chooses winners and losers.

Which brings us to the second problem: complex systems are are non-intuitive. They evolve along unpredictable paths, and our sense of what is going on frequently considers too narrow a view. That is to say, “The impacts of the mess our technology makes reverberate through the world in unexpected ways.”

Genuine engagement with complexity requires a different set of skills than building tech.

Problem solving in tech (as currently conceived) is narrowly focused on a linear set of problems. Ethical tech takes a broader view, and demands that we develop monitoring and mitigation plans at the time of inception.

The third thing we need to get right is the people. In this case, I mean the people building it. The technologists, the team leaders, the company owners, and even the funding agents all need to be able to hold onto a bigger vision – taking a place in an emerging economy that doesn’t exist yet.

This is where courage comes in.

How I can Help

I provide coaching for technology professionals who want their work to contribute to a better future.

This involves more than simply identifying the “right thing to do”. It requires a change in attitude, and the courage to follow through. Teams can work with me to better skills in cooperation, communication, and decision-making.