Aparna ashok

Designing Ethical Technology

Hyper Island Digital Experience Design Research Project
Research Premise
Digital technologies are becoming an indispensable part of our everyday lives - integrated into how we learn, how we heal, how we work, even what we eat. They are an extension of our private selves - currently in the form of our smartphones, evolving into smart objects around us and soon to be inside our bodies. It brings with it lots of opportunities and risks, which are about to get exponential with emerging technologies.

New technologies also raise ethical questions, have serious implications for society and the environment and pose new risks, often unknown and unknowable before the new technologies reach maturity.

Many successful technologists and thought leaders have expressed their concerns about the unintended consequences of emerging technologies.
"If you create a really powerful optimisation process to maximise for obj X - you better make sure your definition of 'x' includes everything you care about. We have to figure out how to create superintelligent AI such that even if when it escapes, it is still safe, because it is fundamentally on our side - it shares our values"
Director, Strategic Artificial Intelligence Research Centre

Ethical Design Manifesto

It can be challenging to apply ethics to a field as fast-moving and filled with uncertainty as tech development. Hence the approach has to be anticipatory and speculative, not predictive. For this, we look at a possible range of futures and steer towards one that is most desirable. Within the scope of this project, a desirable future is a world where technology can respect human rights alongside usability and delight.

How might we proactively address ethical challenges with new technologies?
What does responsible technology look like?
What are the key elements that need to be considered for a piece of technology to be ethical?
What are examples of how organisations have navigated tricky aspects successfully?
How can someone working in tech apply it to the product that they are working on?

This project will start by identifying key ethical principles to be considered when designing technology for the future. Academic research, insights from thought leaders and industry practitioners, will be translated into an actionable format along with future recommendations.
Get involved

I'm looking for collaborators, partners and sponsors to join me on this journey. If you want to share your thoughts, knowledge or get involved, let's talk.

Partner: Are you or your organisation interested in this topic? Help shape the project.
Collaborator: Have you encountered these ethical challenges in your work? Do you mind being interviewed to understand how you approached it?
Community: Do you want to know more about how you can be more ethical when building digital tech? Drop me a line.

Get in touch through the form below or tweet me @aparnaashok_
What do you think?
Timeline: July 2017 - February 2018

July - August : Research formulation and scoping
September: Research and finding collaborators
October - November: Fieldwork and testing
December - January: Synthesis and Report writing
February: Publish
Potential outcomes
This is an explorative study.The ambition is to come up with a concrete toolkit or framework that technologists can use to align their work to ethical values.

* The outcomes may vary depending on research insights or partner needs.
Book of digital ethics
A practitioner's handbook for ethical tech design
Online community
An online community where interested practitioners can learn from each other
Workshops and facilitation on implementing the framework
About me
Hi, I am Aparna!

My skillsets spread across ethnographic and qualitative research; social enterprise strategy; change management; and business strategy.
I am currently doing an MA in Digital Experience Design at Hyper Island, UK.

Why am I doing this?
As an anthropologist and a global citizen, I have observed how our individual and collective behaviour responds to change. Ethics is a huge consideration in the field of anthropology. Technology is the biggest driver of change in the 21st century and we are about to step into a world where the definition of 'individual' and 'human being' will never be the same. When affecting change in the lives of other human beings, it is important for us to consider the full range of ethical consequences of our actions.
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