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Technology Ethicists

The Job

Many companies have their own code of ethics or are in the process of implementing statements regarding their business practices and principles in relation to technology. Technology ethicists make sure that companies' technologies and technologies usage are in accordance with company standards and codes of ethics. They ensure that technologies are ethically designed and there is no bias in the technology products and their applications. A wide variety of organizations of all industries use technologies and artificial intelligence, from banking, law enforcement, news media, and law enforcement, to criminal justice, e-commerce, and welfare eligibility, and more. Any bias that exists in these technologies and their applications could have the potential to negatively impact human rights. Companies hire and consult with technology ethicists to identify noncompliant technologies and mitigate the risks.

Many technology ethicists work for artificial intelligence and technology companies. They review and assess their products to make sure they won't harm users or violate the law. They also make sure that the technologies that companies are thinking of designing won't harm their reputations. Technology ethicists may work full time at companies or they may work as independent consultants. Depending on the company they work for, they may report to public relations, internal operations, or product development departments.

Much of technology ethicists' work entails conducting online research and reading about how technologies and their applications are being designed and used. They study the technologies of companies' competitors also. A technology ethicist's workday at the AI company Hypergiant was described as follows: "It all starts with understanding the industry's biggest challenges....[the technology ethicist] spends two hours reading about how companies, governments, and policymaking bodies have deployed AI, as well as relevant research from the MIT Tech Review, Harvard Business Review, and McKinsey & Company...then applies these findings to how ethical considerations are factored into the business problems of Hypergiant clients." This technology ethicist also referenced the philosopher Immanuel Kant in creating a framework for AI ethics, because "Kant's framework basically aims to answer the question of whether an action is right or wrong."

The technology ethicist's job also entails making sure that technologies and applications are compliant with local, state, and federal laws. Technology ethicists present solutions and steps that can be taken to meet ethical and legal requirements. Their proposals are usually reviewed by either the department they report to or by a cross-functional team that may include designers, computer and data scientists, researchers, and others. Their proposals may then be sent to an ethics review board, composed of chief executives and other senior-level executives. Once approved, the technology ethicists' proposals are usually sent to customers to keep them informed of the company's technology ethics.

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