The digital era of designers – ethics in our minds?
“The technology is only as perfect as the people that made it”
With Design Thinking being my focus area and design approach, I work with IT projects and business innovation workshops that often have very specific problems that need solving. I have experienced that we focus solely on solving the problems and that we forget the bigger picture the solution becomes an integrated part of.
The point is that the developers and designers hold a huge responsibility in making technology, solutions and applications. Not just to solve the users’ current needs in their current situations, but also to create the future in which the solution exists in.
With IoT and SAP Leonardo, we hear about the business of tomorrow, the society of tomorrow, the culture of tomorrow. We are those designers that carry this world forward to that tomorrow, and without sounding too superhero-esque, we also carry that burden of trust. The trust that we make systems that not only solve the current problems at hand, but also innovate and make the lives of the users better in one way or another.
In another SAP blog thread a long time ago, someone commented to me that we did not have this burden, but our task was to solve the problems at hand with our Design Thinking approach. I say, they are not wrong. But the implications of our work echoes forward, and so do the changes we make to the world. Whether it be SAP specific, or generally with IT products ranging between everything.
Good designers solve the problem at hand, as that is their task. Great designers think the bigger picture into consideration, speculate, test, and play with the reality of the future. I think we hold that responsibility to involve, educate and inform our users and teams in the future.
An example of this responsibility.
An example of this is the 2017 implementation of the Danish ‘immediate-divorce’ (straks-skilsmisse) function that allowed couples of Denmark to be divorced instantly with the click of a few buttons on the Danish citizen portal. The previous function only had a separation period of 6 month attached, so that the couples had the opportunity to think both the decision and their marriage through, before they could file for the life changing option.
In some cases, the immediate-divorce function was a blessing, because not all marriages are healthy. But in many cases, the new function sparked controversy. Statistically four out of five couples, that’s 11.000 couples, chose the immediate function in 2017, and this made eyebrows arch upwards. Was such a big decision really something we, as characteristically flawed humans, should be able to do so easily with such a short notice? Many of these couples had children involved, that had to suffer the consequences. It affects us both as a culture, as well as how we view our society at large.
The function was criticized by politicians and a professor in Social Psychology claimed that the affect it had on the children involved could be quite sever. February this year the function was taken up to debate by the parties in the Danish parliament.
Design is not just making the lives of our users easier, it’s not just about solving problems. We affect the culture, societies and world around us at large with the systems we build.