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InfoQ Homepage Podcasts Kingsley Davies and Cat Swetel at QCon London about Ethics and Requisite Variety

Kingsley Davies and Cat Swetel at QCon London about Ethics and Requisite Variety

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In this episode recorded at QCon London 2019 Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, first spoke to Kingsley Davies about ethics and then with Cat Swetel about requisite variety and being mindful of the impact our decisions have for the future

Key Takeaways

  • The need to explore the application of technology for good
  • The need for ethical standards in the technology industry
  • Data is the new oil and it is frequently used in ways that are not in the best interest of society
  •  Other engineering professions have codes of conduct and ethical frameworks that are mandated as part of the education process, software engineering currently has very little
  • Ashby’s law of requisite variety – the more options that are available to a system, the more resilient the system is applies to all aspects of our socio-technical systems
  • We exist in the realm of ethics – we can’t just go to work and do what you’re told.  Everything we do is a choice and our choices have a huge impact on the future

Show Notes

  • 0:43 Introduction to Kingsley
  • 0:53 Kingsley’s talk Effective Ethics for Busy People
  • 1:15 The need to explore the tech for good and ethical technology space
  • 1:49 Tech for Good – technology used for social impact in the charity sector
  • 2:20 the impetus behind opening a coffee shop as a community space
  • 2:45 Now is prime time for tech for good
  • 2:54 Data is the new oil and it is frequently used in ways that are not in the best interest of society
  • 3:27 The need to carefully evaluate the capabilities and uses of data analytics
  • 4:03 Exploring the options open to an individual when they are unsure of the ethics of a course of action
  • 4:29 The need for psychological safety as a prerequisite for ethical decision making
  • 4:40 If you don’t feel safe in the environment you’re in then you should probably change your organisation
  • 4:57 Ways to incorporate ethics into the decision-making stream – possibly as a discrete element in the continuous delivery pipeline
  • 5:42 Other engineering professions have codes of conduct and ethical frameworks that are mandated as part of the education process, software engineering currently has very little
  • 6:08 Examples of some activities happening in the space – such as the Stockholm Letter
  • 6:29 There are a number of examples of codes of conduct and codes of ethics that are available, such as the ACM
  • 6:51 The sad inevitability that it may well need some more incidents before the IT community and society as a whole demand ethical guidelines for software engineering
  • 7:20 Ways to start getting involved
  • 7:40 Referencing the ethical OS toolkit as a framework for evaluating the likely future use of technology being developed
  • 8:15 The grassroots groundswell of developers who are getting engaged and interested in the area of ethics
  • 8:50 Events and activities that are happening in the ethics and tech for good space
  • 10:13 The way business strategies from Open Source and Crowd Funding are being adapted for social good and the charity sector
  • 10:48 An example of tech for good - the application of AI to reduce the load on health services
  • 11:29 Green tech and energy use as a social driver
  • 12:00 the impact of bitcoin and blockchain – the amount of electricity used by bitcoin miners is the equivalent to the electricity consumption of the 38th largest country in the world
  • 12:31 The need for green technology and the efficient use of power and the impact of technology on carbon emissions
  • 13:11 Exploring the background of bitcoin and why it emerged through the global financial crisis in 2008
  • 14:52 Work underway to reduce the power consumption of bitcoin validation, but it’s still experimental
  • 16:08 Introducing Cat Swetel
  • 17:12 Cat’s talk on Requisite Variety
  • 17:32 Ashby’s law of requisite variety – the more options that are available to a system, the more resilient the system is
  • 18:18 Aspects of variety in socio-technical systems
  • 18:35 Examples of where variety makes sense and where it doesn’t
  • 19:13 Sometimes the same relationship needs both high and low variety in different aspects
  • 19:41 Recommendations as an example of variety
  • 20:25 Socio-technical systems are implemented by people, for people
  • 20:44 To build resilient organisations we need teams with a wide variety in background, experiences, culture, knowledge, beliefs and viewpoints
  • 21:35 Become sensitized to opportunities to uncover more options
  • 21:55 The difference between taking an account of a situation and accounting for a situation
  • 22:28 Examples of the assumptions that limit our options and opportunities
  • 22:44 An example of changing the thinking to take account of a situation
  • 23:28 There is no simple answer to overcoming the inherent biases we have
  • 23:33 Some examples of things Cat has found which help overcome the assumptions we hold
  • 23:52 Imagine you are someone else and think about how they will view the situation
  • 24:05 Use diverge-converge thinking to help belief differences
  • 24:32 Using A3 thinking in a collaborative, deliberately provocative approach
  • 25:10 The information technology industry is very young, and we are currently setting the tone for future generations
  • 25:47 Each of us working in the industry today have a huge responsibility to future generations to consider the outcomes of our actions and the way we implement systems
  • 26:38 Being mindful and thinking about what we’re building and the impact of what we do on the future – applying test-first thinking
  • 27:22 Questioning strategy and direction – what would the impact have been if someone at Facebook had questioned the strategy of seeking engagement regardless of the type of engagement
  • 28:05 We exist in the realm of ethics – we can’t just go to work and do what you’re told.  Everything we do is a choice
  • 29:12 Where we need to look for moral guidance and transcendence and meaning
  • 29:47 Listen to each other and value the testimony that we each bring to the table
  • 30:17 We constantly make choices in the work that we do – we need to be more deliberate and mindful about the choices we make
  • 30:42 Feeling empowered to say no and challenge unethical behaviour
  • 30:54 Those of us in the position to say no have a responsibility to do so when it is needed

Mentioned:

About QCon

QCon is a practitioner-driven conference designed for technical team leads, architects, and project managers who influence software innovation in their teams. QCon takes place 8 times per year in London, New York, San Francisco, Sao Paolo, Beijing, Guangzhou & Shanghai. QCon San Francisco is at its 13th Edition and will take place Nov 11-15, 2019. 140+ expert practitioner speakers, 1600+ attendees and 18 tracks will cover topics driving the evolution of software development today. Visit qconsf.com to get more details.

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