Introducing the (World’s First) Ethical Operating System

Article by Paula Goldman and Raina Kumra: “Is it possible for tech developers to anticipate future risks? Or are these future risks so unknowable to us here in the present that, try as we might to make our tech safe, continued exposure to risks is simply the cost of engagement?

 Today, in collaboration with Institute for the Future (IFTF), a leading non-profit strategic futures organization, Omidyar Network is excited to introduce the Ethical Operating System (or Ethical OS for short), a toolkit for helping developers and designers anticipate the future impact of technologies they’re working on today. We designed the Ethical OS to facilitate better product development, faster deployment, and more impactful innovation — all while striving to minimize technical and reputational risks. The hope is that, with the Ethical OS in hand, technologists can begin to build responsibility into core business and product decisions, and contribute to a thriving tech industry.

The Ethical OS is already being piloted by nearly 20 tech companies, schools, and startups, including Mozilla and Techstars. We believe it can better equip technologists to grapple with three of the most pressing issues facing our community today:

  • If the technology you’re building right now will someday be used in unexpected ways, how can you hope to be prepared?
  • What new categories of risk should you pay special attention to right now?
  • Which design, team, or business model choices can actively safeguard users, communities, society, and your company from future risk?

As large sections of the public grow weary of a seemingly constant stream of data safety and security issues, and with growing calls for heightened government intervention and oversight, the time is now for the tech community to get this right.

We created the Ethical OS as a pilot to help make ethical thinking and future risk mitigation integral components of all design and development processes. It’s not going to be easy. The industry has far more work to do, both inside individual companies and collectively. But with our toolkit as a guide, developers will have a practical means of helping to begin working to ensure their tech is as good as their intentions…(More)”.