Omidyar Network, the Silicon Valley impact investment firm, has collaborated with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) on the development of a new toolkit — the Ethical Operating System (Ethical OS) — to help makers of tech, product managers, engineers, and others get out in front of problems before they happen.
Or: How Not to Regret the Things You Build
Visit ethicalOS.org to learn more
REDWOOD CITY, CA —Omidyar Network, the Silicon Valley impact investment firm, has collaborated with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) on the development of a new toolkit — the Ethical Operating System (Ethical OS) — to help makers of tech, product managers, engineers, and others get out in front of problems before they happen. The three-part guide is already being piloted by nearly 20 tech companies, schools, and startups, including Mozilla, Techstars, and others. This is one of many partnerships Omidyar Network’s newly founded Tech and Society Solutions Lab is pursuing to address the growing concerns about responsibility in tech with long-term solutions, a topic of growing importance.
The Ethical OS (#EthicalOS) toolkit is available for Beta testing and community feedback here: www.ethicalOS.org.
What’s in the toolkit:
1. Tomorrow’s Risk, Today: Fourteen scenarios to spark conversation and stretch your imagination about the long-term impacts of tech you’re building today.
2. Check Your Tech: A checklist of eight risk zones to help you identify the emerging areas of risk and social harm most critical for your team to start considering now.
3. Future-Proofing Strategies: Seven future-proofing strategies to help you take ethical action today.
Omidyar Network’s Tech and Society Solutions Lab draws on Omidyar Network’s long-standing belief in the promise of technology to create opportunity and social good, as well as the concern about unintended consequences that can result from technological innovation. The team aims to help technologists prevent, mitigate, and correct societal downsides of technology—and maximize positive impact.
“We envision a world where technology companies take proactive measures to ensure products are responsibly designed and brought to market. That time is now,” said Paula Goldman, global lead of the Tech and Society Solutions Lab. “Inspired by industry standards to mitigate security risk, the Ethical OS helps developers think not just about innovation but long-term societal impact.”
“As makers of tech become more mindful of the unintended effects that their products and services have upon society, we saw a need for a practical toolkit and easy to apply framework for learning, discussion, and eventually better products with fewer potential downsides,” added Raina Kumra, the founder of Mavin and Juggernaut and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Tech and Society Solutions Lab. “Something as simple as a checklist can be a real game changer.”
“Building a startup takes a lot more than just funding,” said Cody Simms, partner at Techstars. “At Techstars, we are building a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Helping founders anticipate future ethical challenges that their technologies could encounter or incite is critical to their ultimate success. We’re thrilled to be working with Omidyar Network and the Institute for the Future on this initiative and to help our global network of more than 1,500 startups get ahead of problems before they happen.”
“The future is like a game. We have to play it to see how it turns out. But if we wait until the future actually happens, it’s too late to shape it or change our strategies for a better outcome,” said Jane McGonigal from IFTF, a renowned expert in collaborative foresight and human interaction. “But we can play it in advance. Our goal is to engage tens of thousands of tech workers in anticipating the long-term impacts of what they’re building today, so they can use that foresight to make better, more ethical choices now.”
“Most people create technology with the hope that it will make the world a better place, but our best intentions must incorporate actionable safeguards to ensure others don’t corrupt our ideas along the way,” added Samuel Woolley, director of IFTF’s Digital Intelligence Lab. “This toolkit helps anyone creating new technology contemplate worst-case scenarios and familiarize themselves with major areas of potential risk. Considering unexpected risks is a must for the entire tech community. Our collective future will be the better for it.”
Feedback on the toolkit and inquiries regarding trainings and workshops related to the toolkit are encouraged by contacting [email protected]. Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #EthicalOS.
Other Tech and Society Solutions Lab partnerships and investments include: the Center for Humane Technology, which was co-founded by Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, to align technology with humanity’s best interests; Data for Democracy, a global community of data practitioners and technologists dedicated to increasing tech worker participation in civil society; the TechEquity Collaborative, which is engaging the tech community to build a more equitable and inclusive twenty-first century economy; as well as the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, which brings the traditions of ethical thinking to bear on real-world problems; among others. The hope is that these efforts help technologists build responsibility into core business and product decisions and contribute to a thriving tech industry.
Institute for the Future (IFTF) is celebrating its 50th anniversary as the world’s leading non-profit strategic futures organization. The core of IFTF’s work is identifying emerging discontinuities that will transform global society and the global marketplace. They provide organizations with insights into business strategy, design process, innovation, and social dilemmas. The organizations research spans a broad territory of deeply transformative trends, from health and health care to technology, the workplace, and human identity.
ABOUT OMIDYAR NETWORK
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. Omidyar Network has committed more than $1 billion to for- profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple initiatives, including Digital Identity, Education, Emerging Tech, Financial Inclusion, Governance & Citizen Engagement, and Property Rights. You can learn more here: www.omidyar.com