Design or Decoration?
Cortana. Alexa. Siri. OK Google. Perhaps we had forgotten these names over our summer break. Getting back into the swing of things at work, we may be reflecting our life choices and reconsider taking up the offer of moving to an off-the-grid farm from that traveller we met. Hmm. He didn’t have a smartphone to talk to, and he still seemed OK. Strange…
We had so much time to think about our jobs, away from the keyboard. We want more of that, heck we want to make products that matter, we are reconsidering our career in tech. But as we come back to work, that all fades. We get into the treadmill and we think about the next task at work. The ethics of our work falls to the bottom of our Prio list.
Take a couple of hours out of that busy schedule. Let’s take a critical look at the swing of things, bringing in Aral Balkan, a cyborg rights activist, designer, and developer ("The Ethical Design Manifesto"), to discuss social justice in the digital age.
If you aren’t able to make it at 7pm, please join us as usual, for some post event drinks and mingling at Café Wendel, Schlesische Str. 42, 10997 Berlin, just across the Spree – here's a map.
Let’s continue the year with a spark,
Design is ethical or it is decoration.Aral Balkan, Cyborg rights activist, designer, and developer
I am a business that makes money by tracking every move you, your family, and your loved ones make, both online and offline. I aggregate and store that information forever. I continuously analyse every piece of it to profile you and understand you better. I do all this to exploit my intimate insight into your life to manipulate your behaviour for profit and to satisfy my political needs.
Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
Hi, my name is Google.
And Snapchat... (should I go on?)
The business model of mainstream technology (the Silicon Valley model) is based on farming people. The goal is to create a digital copy of you, own that copy, and exploit it as an invaluable proxy to manipulate your behaviour. (Oh, and by the way, sometimes we’ll also share our insight with repressive governments and spy agencies too.) This business model is a core pillar of the socio-techno-economic system we call surveillance capitalism. It is inherently exploitative, unethical, and incompatible with human rights or democracy.
If the core of our business – the way we make money – is unethical, how can we expect our products to be ethical? The answer is, we can’t. Design without ethics is decoration.
Thankfully, the Silicon Valley model is just one possible way to build technology. There are alternative – ethical – ways to design and build technologies that are decentralised, free and open, and interoperable.
The nature of the technologies we build and adopt determine no less than the type of society we live in today and in the future. Is that an authoritarian, feudal society ruled by monolithic all-knowing corporations or a democracy? If you want to help build and live in the latter future, this talk show you how to get started on the right path. Come with an open mind, prepare to question everything you know, and to learn an eye- opening and ethical new way to design and build technology.
About our speakers
Aral BalkanAral is a cyborg rights activist, designer, and developer.
He is one-third of Ind.ie, a tiny two-person-and-one-husky social enterprise working for social justice in the digital age.