Stop and think.

I am an Indian living in the Netherlands, and it’s a good exercise to compare notes on culture with friends who live in the US or India.

At India I see the culture which is intensely focused towards action, and wary of reflection. This can also be seen in Silicon Valley with mottos of Facebook, that is, Move fast and break things, or in Amazon’s leadership principle of a Bias for Action.

So, it was interesting to the see best Graduate Award at TU Delft, the leading Dutch technology university, going to a master’s thesis done on… ethics. The student Jet Gispen created a framework to address ethics in design. This is wonderfully surprising not just because ethics are given importance, but because it says that these are more important than advances in technology. After all, this is the university which won Elon Musk’s Hyperloop competition.

Look at the  other graduate projects:

  • A robotic arm which can work without external energy source
  • Cryptographic protocols that enable advertisers to operate without gathering specific information and browsing behaviour of the users
  • New ways to create biofuel from industrial waste

These are just three. The others are equally mind-blowing.

But to say that Ethics in Design was the best, among all these high technology projects means that this society places huge importance on reflection and meaning, and this, quite frankly, boggles my mind.

2 thoughts on “Stop and think.

  1. chetnasamant

    I am not very surprised.
    Every tech company also always has a value on integrity. Intuit (my ex-co) said “Integrity without compromise”, Amazon says “insist on the higher standards”.
    Companies have to have a value on ethics because that is a guiding principle that ascertains consistency and predictability.

    “Ethics in design” does sound quite an interesting topic though.


    1. Hi Chetna, thanks for your comment.

      I agree, companies cannot be un-ethical of course. But I don’t mean a lack of ethics or integrity. I mean the time and energy given to ethical and moral reflections.

      If you look at Jet Gispen’s work, you will find it has a lot of questions about sustainability, health, un-intended consequences, and morals. Are the big (or small) companies today looking at their products from these lenses? I would be very pleasantly surprised if they did.

      I think this thesis got so much attention because we live in a world which could do with more thoughtfulness in creating products.


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