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 exercises and games.

The day is divided into four parts; each part introduces important ethical theory, then lets attendees put their new-found knowledge to the test in short debates and exercises.

1. Eliminating blindspots

The ‘cobra effect’ · Ethics v morals · The myth of neutral tech · Mediation theory · User-centred design’s blindspot · Two new focal points · Externalities Stakeholder broadening · The actor triangle · Unintended consequences · Isn’t prediction out of favour? · The need for ‘moral imagination’ · Design as provocation · The Futures Cone · The designated dissenter · The moral value of diverse teams.

  • Discussion: How did we get here?

  • Exercise: Stakeholder broadening with the ‘actor triangle’.

2. Anticipating ethical risk

Physical harms · Mental harms, addiction, and the dopamine economy · Power, fairness, and equality · Trust and understanding · Malicious use, disinformation, and weaponisation · Privacy and surveillance · Persuasion and behaviour change · Social cohesion · Ecological ethics.

  • Exercise: Emerging technology warning labels.

3. Evaluating moral arguments

Ethical opinion and culture · Different views on the trolley problem · Moral absolutism and relativism · Folk ethics · The is-ought trap · ‘If I don’t do it, someone else will’ · The golden rule · Deontology · Deontology and rights · Two deontological tests · Deontological difficulties · Utilitarianism · A utilitarian test · Utilitarian difficulties · Virtue ethics · Which virtues? · A virtue ethics test · The values spectrum · The golden mean, and the vices of deficiency and excess · Virtue ethics difficulties · What lens works for you? · The veil of ignorance · The social contract.

  • Discussion: Is it ethical to block ads?

  • Exercise: Vice/virtue/vice.

4. Ethics in the innovation process

Ethics in research · The role of metrics · Dark patterns · Introducing ‘mutually destructive metrics’ · A business case for ethics · Beware the business case · Using simple moral language · Collective action · Whistleblowing · Building ‘ethical infrastructure’ · Core values · Design principles · Ethics in career ladders · An ethical red flag · Ethics or politics? · More ethics anti-patterns · Morality as a muscle · The difficult road ahead.

  • Discussion: How can ethics increase revenue / decrease costs / decrease risk?

  • Discussion: Where do we go from here?

  • Exercise: Mutually destructive metrics

(Agenda subject to minor change.)

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.

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.

Attendee feedback

After each workshop I request anonymous feedback. Here’s a representative sample of some of this feedback (emphasis in original).

‘Brilliant. Just so relevant and thought provoking and practical and a masterclass in facilitation. Left feeling very grateful for the work you’ve done, and for making it so accessible to us.’

‘The exercises, they were all fantastic. Especially the proxemic & mutually destructive [metrics]: so much from them that I can actually apply. Thank you!’

‘Eye-opening and thought provoking.’

‘It was BLOODY brilliant! Thank you. Very interesting and engaging.’

‘Great talks , very detailed + good examples to help with understanding. Please go to a design school and do this talk, I would have loved this talk at uni! Thanks :)’

‘I took a lot from today. Found it very valuable. Thank you for your time - great speaker! Best bit: Future Cone (and activity worksheets).’


Learning materials

Each attendee will receive the full workshop deck in PDF format and a paperback copy of Future Ethics, signed by the author.

‘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.

Cennydd 2017.jpg

Your instructor

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 forty 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: