Empiricism as anti-ethics

Jack Dorsey and Kara Swisher are having a conversation on Twitter. They’re onto harassment and user safety.

Dare I say, ‘Observe, learn, and improve’ is the ethical problem. Fence-sitting empiricism dominates the industry. Our leaders espouse innovation pace above all, and argue we can mitigate harm after it hurts the vulnerable. It’s a flimsy dodge of ethical responsibility.

Agile and Lean Startup ideologies are central to this, of course. They have convinced us that unintended consequences are unforeseeable consequences, which is untrue. They’ve tempted us to prioritise validation over values. That has to change.

There are methods and techniques we can use to both broaden our view of potential stakeholders and anticipate the ethical issues that may affect them. These methods force us to look up from our familiar UCD and Lean manuals, our experiments, our safety nets. But it’s about time.

Cennydd Bowles