It’s time for our industry to take ethics seriously. Practical Ethics for Tech Teams is an intensive one-day workshop on ethics in digital product development and design, run by Cennydd Bowles, a leading designer at the forefront of the tech ethics movement. Learn about the three lenses of contemporary ethics, use them in lively debates about emerging technology, and apply what you’ve learned through practical, hands-on games and exercises.
The day is divided into three parts; each part introduces important ethical theory, then lets attendees put their new-found knowledge to the test in short debates and exercises.
Part 1. Understanding ethical challenges
Why the industry needs ethics. Ethics v morality. The myth of neutral tech. Instrumentalism and determinism. Externalities: costs that fall on others. Unintended consequences. Algorithmic bias and redlining. Invisibility and agency. The dangers of user-centricity. Stimulating moral imagination. The designated dissenter. Personas non grata. Futuring and speculation. Design as provocation. Persuasive design and dark patterns.
Debate: How did we get here?
Debate: The ethics of placebo buttons.
Exercise: Stakeholder broadening.
Exercise: Emerging technology warning labels.
Part 2. Evaluating ethical arguments
Who gets to choose? Moral relativism v absolutism. Culture and the trolley problem. Folk ethics. The is-ought trap. ‘If I don’t do it, someone else will’. The golden and platinum rules. Deontological ethics. The role of rights. Utilitarianism. Scientific morality. Virtue ethics. The golden mean, and the vices of deficiency and excess. The role of core values and design principles. The veil of ignorance. The social contract. The principle of double effect.
Debate: Should robots have rights?
Debate: Should encryption allow us to hold secrets from the state?
Debate: Is it ethical to block ads?
Exercise: The values spectrum.
Part 3. Putting ethics first
Mitigating bias. Avoiding the ‘technocracy trap’. Ethics in design research. Isn’t empathy enough? Making the case for ethics. The power of mutually destructive metrics. The three business case categories. Beware the business case! Other ethical dead ends. Building ethical infrastructure within teams and companies. Facilitation v judgment. Ethics in leadership. The future of regulation. Roles and responsibilities: time for specialists?
Debate: Do we need a Hippocratic Oath for technologists?
Debate: Where do we go from here?
Exercise: Mutually destructive metrics
Exercise: Dark patterns, flipped.
(Proposed agenda, subject to minor change.)
Attendees will learn
Practical ways to anticipate ethical risks that accompany new technologies.
Tools, games, and approaches for teasing out unintended consequences and identifying externalities that may fall on hidden stakeholders.
Grounded theory for debating and evaluating ethical arguments, helping teams get past ‘gut feel’ and reach more concrete conclusions.
Knowledge of common pitfalls in ethical reasoning.
How to set incentives and targets that protect users, while also achieving meaningful business objectives.
Strategies and tactics to reposition ethics as not only the heart of new product development, but a lasting competitive advantage for their teams.
Sample slides and images
Who should attend?
This workshop is ideal for designers, product managers, and software engineers working within technology teams. All levels of seniority including leadership roles are welcome; all views will be treated as equal within the workshop environment.
All attendees will also receive the full workshop deck in PDF format, for future reference.
Book an in-house workshop and you’ll also receive five paperback copies of Future Ethics, signed by the author, to share with your teams.
‘We need good books about ethics now more than ever. Practitioners need guidance on how to think ethically, how to detect ethical choices, and how to resolve ethical dilemmas. That’s exactly what this book is, and it’s destined to become a well-thumbed classic.’ —Alan Cooper.
‘At a time when technologists are only starting to grasp how their values and biases weave through the products they build, Cennydd’s long-lens view of ethics is exactly what designers, product managers and builders of today’s digital products need.’ —Azeem Azhar, Exponential View.
Over a sixteen-year career, Cennydd Bowles has written two popular books, led design at Twitter UK, and established a reputation as a global leader in digital product and UX design. As an independent consultant, he has worked with clients including the BBC, Samsung, WWF, Cisco, and Ford.
Cennydd’s focus today is the ethics of emerging technology. He has been quoted on the topic in The Guardian, Ars Technica, The Daily Telegraph, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Forbes; his new book Future Ethics has been called ‘A must read for anyone who is inventing the future or cares about living in it.’ Cennydd has presented on the topic at Microsoft, Stanford University, Dropbox, Fitbit, Google, Hulu, Facebook, IBM, and the New York Times. He now consults with technology companies on ethical approaches to design and new product development, drawing on innovative techniques from speculative design, futurism, and contemporary practical ethics.
Cennydd is a frequent keynote speaker at tech and design conferences worldwide, and runs internal training workshops for clients including The Financial Times, Orange, Farfetch, and Capital One. He has written for a range of print and web publications, been a columnist for A List Apart, and edited the book Front-end Style Guides.
Find out more
Practical Ethics for Tech Teams is available as an in-house workshop, for teams of between eight and twenty-five attendees. The workshop can be offered anywhere in the world, subject to visas and/or work permission. To find out more or discuss booking a workshop for your team: