Area of Concern

Ethical Tech


Tingari-Silverton Foundation

Civil servants, public officials, and government bureaucrats swear an oath to serve in a democratic government, committing to acting in accordance with a set of values—including integrity, honesty, objectivity, loyalty, and stewardship—intended to uphold the public interest. This Playbook is designed to bring these values into the practice of strategic foresight to focus and improve the conversations governments must have, internally and externally, regarding emerging technologies.

Governments have the responsibility and authority to regulate change, mitigate risk, encourage innovation, and protect people from both the intended and unintended consequences of technosocial shifts. Governments can get ahead of the curve when it comes to regulating technology by utilizing methods that allow them to imagine, and act on, a vastly wider range of possible outcomes—this model of governance is what futurist Alvin Toffler deemed “anticipatory democracy.” This Playbook can help those working in government, or those responsible for governing functions in other sectors, make better long-term decisions by increasing their foresight capacity, allowing them to develop future-facing regulatory structures that remain aligned with the values and ethics of traditional democratic civil service.

This Playbook presents a decision-making process structured around:

5 Risk Zones, or topics that can be both looming threats as well as areas rife for technological disruption: Law Enforcement, Public Health, Equity and Inclusion, Artificial Intelligence, and Climate. Decisions made within these zones require deliberate consideration and the balancing of priorities: advancing government policies, adhering to your values, and choosing whether to integrate new technologies;

2 Scenarios for each risk zone, representing ethical dilemmas either now or in the future. These scenarios are intended to spark conversation about how technology might impact—or be impacted by—the themes presented in the risk zones;

One Decision Tree for each scenario to scaffold decision-making conversations. This should be thought of as an interpretive framework for thinking systematically about ethical trade-offs presented within each scenario; and

3-5 Questions for each scenario to help guide conversation.

This Playbook can be used by agencies, officials, and others in the civic sector (and related partners) to improve and extend future-ready planning and policy initiatives. The Playbook was designed to work as a stand-alone, self-facilitated tool, but is also a process that could be done in partnership with IFTF facilitators as a workshop, series of workshops, or a multi-faceted, longer-term project or program.

Policymakers, technology companies, and watchdog groups alike need a framework through which to assess and evaluate ethical dilemmas, to anticipate and mitigate unintended consequences of their decisions, and to act to maximize positive outcomes for most people. That is why foresight and anticipation are critical and why the Governance Futures Lab at IFTF has taken on the mission of helping governments improve their foresight capabilities to create effective systemic change in how technology is designed, scaled, and regulated. A Playbook for Ethical Technology Governance, p. 5

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