Should tech companies be hiring Chief Ethics Officers in order to get better at self-examination? That’s the question posed by Kara Swisher, internet pioneer and Recode editor at large, in a New York Times column today. “I think we can all agree that Silicon Valley needs more adult supervision right about now,” Swisher wrote. “Is the solution for its companies to hire a chief ethics officer?”
Kara Swisher discussed the idea of tech companies hiring Ethics Officers in an interview on CNBC (Watch Below):
Tech Companies Have Faced Many Ethics Challenges
All these companies have faced one thing after another. Whether it’s Google in China or Google with the hack that they didn’t disclose for six months or its Facebook with so many things. I mean the elections, the issues around fake news, the issues around bots, the issues around the Russians, and everything. Then there’s Twitter with Alex Jones and things like that.
Swisher Proposes Idea of Hiring Chief Ethics Officers
These are issues that are hitting tech and that leaves out automation and robotics and all these other issues that are societally impactful. In academics, there’s a lot of people studying this stuff. There’s a bunch of AI ethics people. There are all kinds of people actually studying these issues and the impact of social media, especially on our society.
In a previous New York Times column, I talked about the weaponization of everything, that these things amplify and weaponize things, and the people who are running these companies are ill-prepared to understand the impact of what they’ve created. I would like them to have people around them that will allow them to think about that. You could do this for Wall Street, you could do this for the defense industry, you could do this for a lot.
Mark Zuckerberg Was Ill-Prepared to Deal with the Impacts
These are people who say they’re changing the world and always touting themselves as the better thing, when in fact a lot of their inventions are very damaging to society. Think about someone like Mark Zuckerberg who didn’t complete college, never took a humanities course, has not been schooled in this.
I know he’s been trying to learn a lot of things since then, but here’s one person who has complete control over this company who is ill-prepared to deal with some of the impacts.
Tech Execs Don’t Reflect at Anything They Do
I think they don’t think about it at all. They’re so non-self reflective it’s a miracle they can see in the mirrors in Silicon Valley, they’re like vampires. They don’t reflect at anything they do.
I had a really interesting interview with the woman who was a lawyer for Google and Twitter in the early days and she explained how you create the pillars of your creation. If you put things around virality you’re gonna get fake news. If you put it around relevance and truthfulness you get a different outcome. They’ve been designing for speed and virality and it moves into the things, the problems we have.
Tech Companies Are Causing Damage All Over the World
What you have to do is you have to figure out when you’re designing these companies the possible implications. That’s why I say, there’s not gonna be a Chief Ethics Officer, they don’t want anyone to slow the breaks and this is someone who would slow the breaks and say maybe we should pay more, maybe we should have human moderators, what’s going on here in Myanmar, what about India?
They have to start considering these because they’re causing damage all over the world and these technologies have massive impact and in the future are going to have even more so.