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Ethicists were hired to save tech’s soul. Will anyone let them?

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Ethicists were hired to save tech’s soul. Will anyone let them?

Firms are adding ethical thinking to their processes, but ethical outcomes are optional.


5 min read
3 take-aways
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What's inside?

In response to public backlash, the tech industry is starting to embrace ethics. 

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Technology companies are facing public backlash over their innovations’ impact on society. As a result, companies have started to hire “chief ethics officers” to help them align their products with human values. But are these efforts simply designed to regain public trust and pacify the conscience of employees, or are they the first step toward a universal code of ethics for emerging technology? Science reporter Linda Kinstler talked to company insiders to see where the industry is at. She provides a useful overview for anyone concerned about tech’s influence on society.


An increasing number of tech companies are hiring ethics officers to align their products with human values.

In 2019, Salesforce hired Paula Goldman to become its first Chief Ethical and Human Use Officer. Her vaguely defined mandate is to ensure that Saleforce’s business activities contribute to making the world a better place. Goldman’s Ethical and Humane Use team provides training to help employees consider ethical issues in the software development process and think through the intended and unintended consequences of new product features. Salesforce has updated its acceptable use policy to ban the sale of firearms on its platform and ensure that AI-generated legal decisions are reviewed by a human before going into effect.

Salesforce decided to hire Goldman after the company faced ongoing criticism...

About the Author

Linda Kinstler is a freelance writer and PhD candidate in the Rhetoric Department at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a contributing writer at Politico Europe and the managing editor of The New Republic.

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