Two waves of IT innovation lie behind us. Wave 1 was all about functionality, with  hype-cycles driving function over form. Users were guinea pigs for beta versions of code; code was released  (too) early and often. But still we liked the IT we got: Practical value was created. Wave 2 replaced the form-follows-function mantra with a new value proposition that no one wants to live without any more: beauty and user friendliness. Users are considered as "DAUs" (= Dumbest Imaginable Users), yes. But simple end-user programming has also started to empower users and democratize computing to a certain extent.

Now what is next?

Some people have built a very clear vision on that question. They refer to their vision as the "GNR" (Genetics, Nanotechnoloy, Robotics) Revolution, Transhumanism, The Singularity, or whatever best describes the idea of replacing mankind by machines. In their view, human beings are suboptimal biological systems that are outperformed by machines. Mankind is viewed as an episode in the evolution of information. Others, not as apocalyptic as these transhumanists, just want to take away informational self-determination. No matter what vision or wave you subscribe to, one phenomenon persists: The idea of man as miserable. Generally, machines are viewed as superior to human beings.

The Ethical Machine is an alternative vision for the future of IT innovation:

(1) It is a vision that deeply believes in the power of human beings, nature and the intelligence embedded in the biological system, much of which is yet undiscovered. (2) Humans are recognized as the superior system that machines strive to serve. In doing so, machines become artificial friends and coaches we fully control. (3) Humans are not tampered with. (4) Machines complement humans in those areas where humans are suboptimal. Machines don't replace them or try to resemble them. (5) No Ethical Machine is a standard device or standard service. Instead, an ethical machine adapts to each individual and supports this individual in its unique mission for happiness and excellence. (6) Ethical machines embed ethics by design. They are built with great care and not only respect, but also help humans preserve their values: identity (including work), health, truth and transparency, knowledge, understanding, wisdom and virtuousness, true friendship and co-operation, harmony and proportion in one's life, power, control and a sense of achievement, self-expression, freedom (including mental freedom) and privacy (including the right to be let alone and information self-determination), security, adventure and novelty, dignity, aesthetics and justice. (7) Finally, The Ethical Machine recognizes the power of our senses and helps us to leverage them. It views human intelligence as an integrated whole of body and mind.

Wise leaders and open-minded engineers can create ethical machines. Ethical thinking needs to be woven into the fabric of IT system design and development processes. (Sarah Spiekermann, 8.5.2014)