Responsible Technology for a sustainable work

The future of sustainable work is poetry: from the Greek etymology "poiein", "to make", but with a tension towards the spirit and the world. 

In the book "The Craftsman", Richard Sennet describes the value of craftsmanship by indicating the union between technical ability and ethical responsibility, between the how and why of things. The Greek demiurges were the artisans who worked for the community (from "demos", people, and "ergon", work). Then over time, with the specializations, the technicians abandoned the search for the meaning of their doing and the atomic bomb was born. 

The trend of "Responsible Technology", born last year as a result of a formalization of pre-existing methodologies and approaches, has precisely the objective of reconciling technique and ethics, and has the merit of providing ideas and concrete practices to ground this vision. It is a growing trend (as can be seen from the InfoQ report) because everyone, inside and outside companies, customers and employees, sees the value, stability and well-being that can derive from it, in an increasingly stressed working world, always in run-up (as seen in the perceived benefits presented in the MIT research).

As Deb Doing, professor of “Ethical Technology” at California Polytechnic State University says - When people talk about “Responsible Technology”, what they generally are interested in is the intersection of technological production and culture on the one hand, and on the other hand, human values. - It’s interesting to notice the close connection between the description of the vision of "Responsible Technology" and the purpose of WebScience "Digital with values", which summarizes on the one hand the concrete value that we bring to our customers, on the other the human values that live in the people of the company, above all trust and growth. This purpose is the result of a work that involved all the people of the company in numerous workshops and testifies that the search for responsible technology was already within the company for a long time, without having yet identified it with these words.

But concretely, when we talk about "Responsible Technology", what are the areas of action where we can intervene?

Accessibility and inclusive design 
What are the real needs of the user? Which communities are we going to influence? Which ones have we not considered yet? The world of design thinking teaches us to explore needs and agile helps us design solutions together with users, but new interesting tools dedicated to the world of responsible technology are emerging, of which there is a rich collection in this playbook produced by ThoughtWorks. For example, the Canvas proposed by Omidyar network link is interesting (link). It proposes new questions: can the product we are developing create dependencies? Are we creating a new channel for malicious people to use for scams or other crimes? And more questions.

Data privacy and security 
In addition to complying with regulations, it is important to give people the security that they will not lose personal or confidential data. The Security by design paradigm helps to design solid applications from this point of view. Stefano bruna's speech at the web day on this topic was very interesting (link).

Environmental impact 
Even digital technologies can help contain climate change, if designed in a way to require an optimized use of the energy consumed by cloud infrastructures. At the observatory of the Politecnico di Milano on Cloud transformation this year the theme of Green It is a subject of particular attention (link

Avoid disinformation and promote truth 
The increasingly massive introduction of AI poses new challenges: it is necessary to avoid spreading incorrect information or information corrupted by bias. But the theme is more general: it is always appropriate to ask ourselves whether there are systems for preventing the dissemination of incorrect information in the new applications we develop. 

Diversification in technology workforce 
Different points of view create innovation, you need to stay on the frontier (link). Agile and Teal templates help consider everyone's input. Some practices force a break from group thinking, in order not to think all in the same way. Others favor decision-making processes that converge ideas, without excluding them. But that's not enough, we need to open up to new ideas and experiences that we don't know yet, research, experiment: are there other points of view that we could consider? In this regard, the event organized by our group adesso is very interesting, which will talk precisely about the importance of diversity in the company (link).

So many ideas and so many practices, where to start? A first small step can be to organize not only the classic retrospectives but also futurespectives, to understand, iteratively, the future impact of our product and anticipate the risks. One step at a time, through the adoption of these methodologies, work can slowly go back to becoming "poetry", craftsmanship, something that makes sense to celebrate, not only on Labor Day, but every day.

Article by

Alberto Marsanasco

Chief Innovation Officer