The Speed of Ethics

by | Jul 30, 2020 | ICT4D |

speed of ethics

Some days we pick up a takeaway for supper. Some days it’s much slower as we slow roast freshly picked vegetables from the garden. Most days it’s somewhere in between using food from local farmers and shops.

Conversations around digital transformation and ethics are often pitted against each other. And there is inbuilt bias and assumption that fast is good and everything else is bad. Super Size Me is quickly forgotten. I regularly get told people are interested in the discussions about ethics and values, but do not want them to slow down digital transformation or innovation. Speed at all costs.

Talking about ethics. Hearing multiple perspectives. Uncovering bias, injustice, oppression. It all takes time and resources. These are messy, complex, iterative conversations.

But here’s the thing. People often see ethics as an add on. An extra. Something separate from the innovation or the digital transformation. And therefore it is seen as something that ‘slows us down’. However, if it is inbuilt from the beginning, integrated, it becomes the ‘way we do things around here.’

Secondly, when I ask people how much time, money, and energy they have spent on the innovation or digital transformation project they are now wanting an ‘ethical’ review of. And after their response, ask for the same budget, time, and energy for the ‘ethical’ part of it. The answer is always the same ‘Don’t be absurd! We don’t have a budget for this.’

Ethics and ‘building’ innovative ideas work on different timescales. But innovation and digital transformation is much more than ‘cool’ ideas and technology. And ethics is a discussion, rarely an easily this or that decision.

Too often we approach digital and innovation ethics in a way that suggests we want McDonald’s to be part of the ‘slow food’ movement. This is unhelpful. Ethics is more about the everyday choices we make.

Speed is neither fast or slow. It’s a measure of movement.

Photo by chuttersnap


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