Ethics by design is adding ethical choices and values to a design process as non-functional requirements, that then are turned into functional specifications.

E.g. when you want to count the size of a group of people by taking a picture of them, adding the value of safeguarding privacy into the requirements might mean the picture will be intentionally made grainy by a camera. A more grainy pic still allows you to count the number of people in the photo, but you never captured and stored their actual faces.

When it comes to data governance and machine learning Europe’s stance towards safeguarding civic rights and enlightenment values is a unique perspective to take in a geopolitical context. Data is a very valuable resource. In the US large corporations and intelligence services have created enormous data lakes, without much restraints, resulting in a tremendous power asymmetry, and an objectification of the individual. This is surveillance capitalism.
China, and others like Russia, have created or are creating large national data spaces in which the individual is made fully transparent and described by connecting most if not all data sources and make them accessible to government, and where resulting data patterns have direct consequences for citizens. This is data driven authoritarian rule.
Europe cannot compete with either of those two models, but can provide a competing perspective on data usage by creating a path of responsible innovation in which all data is as much combined and connected as elsewhere in the world, yet with values and ethical boundaries designed into its core. With the GDPR the EU is already setting a new de-facto global standard, and doing more along similar lines, not just in terms of regulations, but also in terms of infrastructure (Estonia’s X-road for instance) is the opportunity Europe has.

Some pointers:
My blogpost Ethics by Design
A naive exploration of ethics around networked agency.
A paper (PDF) on Value Sensitive Design
The French report For a Meaningful Artificial Intelligence (PDF), that drive France’s 1.5 billion investment in value based AI.

This page is a Hub page, providing an overview of everything about Networked Agency in this wiki-section, with links and references leading away from it.

Networked Agency building blocks

This is my take on agency, which is a networked agency. I formulated it in 2016 as a way to express what unifies all my work, basically since I started working.

In our digital, globally networked and hence more complex age, we need a qualitatively different approach to agency.

This means embracing the affordances digitisation and networks give us.
This means designing our digital tools fully aligned with the core ideas behind interconnected networks (smart at the edges and within control of its users, can work alone yet (much better) locally or preferably globally connected).
This means taking complexity as a given, where experiences, probing, and responding to things play a key role.

This makes an individual including its meaningful relations to others, in a specific and real life context the relevant unit of agency.
This is networked agency.

Networked Agency, residing at the level of an individual plus its social context, I see consisting of three parts:

  • Striking power. The ability to (collectively) act and create on your own accord. This is where low-threshold tools are important, as is knowledge of working methods and processes.
  • Resilience. The ability to shield oneself against and mitigate negative consequences of other’s behaviour propagating through the network to you. This is where being able to work locally when disconnected is important, and temporarily suspending interdependencies. Next to early warning systems, and how to help put a brake on negative patterns you identify.
  • Agility. The ability to leverage, adapt and respond to opportunities from other’s behaviour propagating through the network to you. This means sensing what is going on early, seeing what aligns with the interests and needs of the local network, how to use that for yourself, and how to feed attractive patterns with ones own contributions to help sustain them. (e.g. open source development).

Relevant blog postings:

As an example of a design aid, I created the image below:

Application

Early 2017, in collaboration with the Frisian Library Service, we used the above to design a project with a primary school group, for them to design and create ‘solutions’ to things they wanted to change in their environment. The feedback was very positive, both from the participants, my project partners and the financing Dutch Royal Library. It turned into the basic working method of the Frisian Library Service, and we’re currently trying to extend that collaboration also with other local libraries in Europe.

Keynote video

At the June 2018 State of the Net conference in Trieste I gave a keynote on networked agency. A video, alongside my slides, is available.

This is the frontpage of my emerging wiki-like collection of semi-permanent content. Where blogposts form a ‘river’ of items, for reference it is useful to have a range of more static ‘pools’ of content. Both to provide additional context and background to blogposts, as well as a useful documentation in itself. Documentation of ongoing work, reading, research, or experiments. (April 2018).

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