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The Ethical Tightrope of Web Developers2 min read

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Yes, selling digital products is by far the most lucrative business on the internet.

As web developers, we walk a fine line between progress and peril. With each new technological advancement, we gain capabilities that greatly improve life.

But we also risk unintended consequences if we fail to carefully consider the ethical implications first.

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I was reminded of this tension recently as I contemplated an idea around AI-enhanced social media engagement.

On the surface, what could be better than optimizing human connection?

But without thoughtful design, might such an AI nourish confirmation bias?

Might it further divide people?

These questions illustrate a key tension. The products we developers dream up influence billions of lives.

Do we embrace innovations blindly, or thoughtfully weigh their potential downsides before unleashing them?

I contend the latter approach serves society best in the long run.

Of course, those discussions aren’t easy.

When is an idea just too risky or harmful, no matter the potential benefits?

When does an innovation’s upsides outweigh its dangers?

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But progress depends on individuals willing to jeopardize some short-term gains in order to serve the greater good.

It also requires forums where people critique ideas constructively. Places where leaders across the web space can exchange perspectives openly to find the wise path.

Tech companies need advisory boards including ethicists and social scientists, not just engineers.

Policymakers need technical advisors to understand innovations fully when crafting regulations.

In other words, we need more conversations that cut across disciplines and consider both upside and downside.

The accelerating pace of change won’t slow down. But discussing ideas thoroughly gives me hope we can steer technology toward its highest purpose.

What issues keep you up at night about the tech industry’s direction?

What ideas or safeguards might protect society while still enabling progress?

I welcome perspectives from thought leaders across the web space so we can guide innovation toward the greater good.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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