What is an ethical technologist?

Thanks! I’ll chip away at these.

I was thinking I would write a short essay going into this, and then linking it from the front page. But if I can describe it briefly that will assist with folks understanding.

I’m on the fence of presenting this way, because it seems more personal, so for now I’ll keep it. Basically it comes from this fact that if I don’t mention “ethics”, no one will. I want it to be the first barrier to folks, so they will pass me over if they would want me to do creepy things for them.

I’m sensitive to this, most people who approach me for work, their actions are compromised, and I want to flag myself as unavailable. Also, when I say something like, “I can’t do that”, I want it to have been clear from the beginning why.

It basically means, when I work I consider the ethical implications of the systems I build. These days that means not complying with surveillance capitalism, not gathering invasive data on users, not deploying anti-patterns for “customer capture”, etc.

Taken all together, if I proceed with this designator and want to produce a niche for myself, I’ll probably need to produce a page that explains “ethical technology services”, with more details…

Sadly, there is no real definition for an “ethical technologist”, according to my research. I’m claiming the term before it has been formalized in academia and industry.


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I think this is more “one of the things I am”. As in, when you hire me you get an ethical technologists, but also you may hire me specifically to address ethical technology issues, likely around privacy and security.


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Via When beliefs become identities, truth-seeking becomes hard - LessWrong, this is a description of why I say it, and I now understand why it has been so difficult to explain: it’s tied to my identity.

Julia Galef makes a final suggestion: hold a scout identity. She suggests this because having an identity that says, “I’m the kind of person who pursues the truth” makes truth-seeking easier and more meaningful. Identities are something extremely useful to humans. Holding a particular identity makes it easier to do difficult, unrewarding things associated with that identity. If you identify as a math person, it will be easier for you to study math. Even if the practical rewards for studying math usually appear in the long term, your identity means you find the short-term actions more rewarding.

As a person I ID as a “free thinker”, because it flags to others and myself that when I am unsure I fall back on seeking truth as I understand it, and applying it.

As an information worker, being “ethical” is contrary to how business is run. By declaring this up front, I bolster my resolve when asked to act in a way that harms people outside the view of my client, even though it means resisting and trying to change their mind.

I like to explain things, be clear up front, but in this case this may be a bit of a gimmick as well as a statement: if you have to ask what an ethical technologists is, we should probably have a quick discussion anyhow.


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I help teams and companies apply technology, ethically.

And then use real-world examples of how I did so.

Now we’re cooking!

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