Technology is a force for both good and evil. Ethicists and public intellectuals constantly wrestle with how to ensure the tools we build help make the world a better place. Current tech-related moral quandaries include:
From deepfakes and repression of dissent to online harassment and facial recognition software, the decisions we make about technology have broad and lasting consequences. It’s important for everyone working in tech to have an understanding of the power and potential, for good and bad, of their work. Everyone who works in tech should have some understanding of tech ethics or “tethics” to borrow from the HBO show Silicon Valley (note: clip has some NSFW language).
“Technology is a human activity,” TechCrunch Ethicist in Residence Greg M. Epstein said. “It’s not good or bad inherently. It’s what we make of it.”
Here are five experts to start following today (in alphabetical order). This is by no means an exhaustive list. But it’s a decent place to start.
Areas of expertise: Copyright, monopoly, privacy
Why you should follow: Cory Doctorow is a clear and concise writer. He makes nerdy, science-y posts engaging and understandable. He walks the talk. As a proponent of liberalising copyright laws, he publishes his books under a Creative Commons license. And as a privacy proponent, he includes no ads, tracking, or data-collection on his blog or newsletter.
Areas of expertise: Free speech, global privacy, malware, and nation-state spyware
Why you should follow:
Eva is a tireless advocate for civil liberties, with a particular focus on women’s safety. She’s successfully lobbied for companies to flag domestic abuse spyware as malware and generally works to protect vulnerable groups from online surveillance, including activists, journalists, and domestic abuse survivors. Her Twitter feed is a great source for new threats to online safety and privacy.
TED Talk: What you need to know about stalkerware
Areas of expertise: Government transparency, journalism, prisons
Bio: Kevin Gosztola is Managing Editor of Shadowproof and co-hosts a weekly podcast called Unauthorized Disclosure.
Why you should follow: There is no accountability without transparency, and when it comes to the US federal government, that transparency is under attack. From state secrets to FISA courts to prosecutions of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, keeping government accountable to the people has never been harder or more dangerous. Shadowproof is a great source for keeping up with the war on transparency.
Podcast: Unauthorized Disclosure
Areas of expertise: Cybersecurity, Hacking, Infosec, Malware, Programming
Bio: Marcus Hutchins is a computer security researcher for cybersecurity firm Kryptos Logic.
Why you should follow: I became aware of Marcus Hutchins through his wild WIRED profile. He is known for temporarily stopping the WannaCry ransomware attack and then getting arrested for hacking. A former NSA hacker described Marcus as a "reversing savant.” He tweets and blogs about information security.
Areas of expertise: AI
Bio: Stuart J. Russell is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley and Adjunct Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. He founded and leads the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (CHAI) at UC Berkeley.
Why you should follow: Russell co-authored the most popular AI textbook: Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach, used in more than 1,400 universities in 128 countries. He also wrote Human Compatible: AI and the Problem of Control. Stuart is good at making AI ethics issues understandable to laypeople.
Start here: TED Talk: 3 principles for creating safer AI
There are many brilliant people thinking and writing about tethics. Hopefully you found this list helpful, whether this topic is something you’re just dipping your toes into, or you’re looking for some new people to follow.
Who else should be on this list? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org