Ethics by Design

Ethics has traditionally been about people, and their good behavior. By contrast, ‘Ethics by Design’ (EbD) is a fairly new organisational concept whereby ethical considerations are “built in” to new designs right from the initial activities, as opposed to “post hoc” after-the-fact. This allows ethical discussions throughout the process, and enables products, systems and decision-making activities that foreground such considerations – e.g., sustainability, privacy or equality. With AI and the ongoing issues of privacy, transparency of business practices and data protection, mindful design processes have never been more vital. As Paula Boddington explains, “If we see ethics as part and parcel of design, of producing and deploying products with genuine value, we can also see studying ethics as something to be integrated with studying AI, computing, and technology, not some separate afterthought to design.” (2023). Boddington and others point to the challenges of EbD, noting that there are heterogeneous paradigms and competing values that could potentially alter and reshape society’s ethical norms. The right to dignity, equality, privacy, data protection, transparency and trust are principles identified by the European Commission, which they wish to see incorporated into the funded technologies. 

Boddington, P. (2023). AI Ethics: A Textbook. New York, New York, USA: Springer