If "to know the good is to do the good," we need to know the good with respect to technologies so we can do it.
Welcome to Ethics of Technology, a site dedicated to education, training and support on important ethical issues related to new technologies.
Let's say you've developed a new technology or improved upon an existing one. It has all the best buzzwords: state of the art, groundbreaking, shiny. What you have is truly an accomplishment for engineering. What's more, it has clear economic benefits and you or your team have successfully marketed the product. It would seem everything is going well; the long-term stability of your technology seems guaranteed, the corporate infrastructure you're a part of is stable, and you've planned out a sustainable future for the long-term success of the technology. Why do you need ethics, then?
As I sometimes tell my students, ethics isn't the path to riches and glory. You probably couldn't fill out a "Fortune Five" of ethicists. Often ethicists toil in obscurity in universities, hospitals and NPOs. What's worse--they're nerds without the sex appeal: there are no strapping superhero philosophers or charming space captain moralists to sell to the public. But when companies fail to pay attention to ethics, the public often notices. Whether you're a pharmaceuticals CEO inflating drug prices, a bank opening fake accounts, or a social media site selling users' data to shady political organizations, tech and business leaders need to take note of ethics!
It's a good idea to get ahead of ethical problems before we cross obvious moral boundaries. It's a better idea to promote business strategies and develop technologies that promote the good life. Just as we all hope our ideas will lead to success and help us accomplish our goals, we should also note how our technological behaviors may and do impact other people. The goal of this site is to provide resources for men and women interested in ethical issues related to technologies to promote the best possible future (whatever that may mean)
Some technologies are obviously morally dangerous, such as ICBMs loaded with 50 megaton thermonuclear warheads. Others are obviously morally good, such as the polio vaccine. Most, however, admit of some ambiguity. Some benefit one group while harming another. Others have immediate pay offs but long-term harms. Others still may be good when used correctly, but dangerous when used incorrectly. Finally, some may completely change the moral situations we have present so that what was previously good and bad doesn't make sense, and our new decisions have to be carefully weighed.
It is important for not only engineers and entrepreneurs to think about the moral impacts of new and developing technologies. Project managers, marketers, science policy advisers, regulatory committees and consumers--that means YOU!--also need to pay careful attention to new technologies to help us avoid making Faustian bargains for technologies that promise untold power and riches but cost us our souls.
The decisions we make today about new technologies will have long-lasting impacts. Consider the myth of Prometheus: the gods punished him for bringing fire to humans, but were they right in doing so? What has fire given us? Heaters and stoves, swords and guns, cars and space shuttles, and the list goes on. Some of these are clearly of great benefit to us. Others, like missiles, landmines or fossil fuel consumption have created problems which threaten generations. Henry Ford and Thomas Watt probably had no way to predict the current climate crisis, but today we know. What other problems will our technologies of today yield to the generations of tomorrow? Should Prometheus remain bound?
Luckily, there are many dedicated men and women who have been concerned about new moral issues for decades. This website illuminates some of their ideas, but the discerning reader should be aware that there are many other sources out there!
Under CV, you'll be able to read a little more about me.
Under Resources, you'll find a lengthy list of books I recommend on the subject, as well as a series of educational videos I am creating about ethics of technologies.
Under the Links tab, you'll find many useful outside sources for reading up on the work of other ethicists of technology.
Under Services, I have included two optional services I provide for tech firms interested in ethical concerns: consulting services and educational services.
If you have any questions, comments or just want to say hello, you can reach me under the Contact tab.