The Financial Times recently explored business schools’ embrace of the idea that regulation – whether ethics or legislation – encourages innovation rather than impeding it.
While large tech companies have highlighted the idea of innovation to increase user engagement, diversify against the competition and increase shareholder returns, these same companies have viewed regulation and ethics as roadblocks to the innovation their users crave. Often, companies have been more proactive in terms of ethics and regulation only when forced by scandals or public relations crises. Recall Facebook’s whistleblower leaks or Google’s controversial exits from their artificial intelligence ethics group.
Alice Thwaite, founder of tech ethics consultancy Hattusia, sums it up nicely: “there is a general trend of talking about ethics but not doing anything about it”. The FT’s article challenges business school students to view ethics as an integral part of business development and encourages engaging with technology ethicists to support their organizations.
Teaching students to participate in conversations on regulations as a regular cycle of business will help both students’ careers and the companies they join, as well as those companies’ end users. And teaching ethics encourages adaptability as regulations change, especially as politicians are keying in on Big Tech.
While Silicon Valley may view regulation as a roadblock to innovation and creativity, the Facebook debacle has reminded us that a sole focus on growth and market dominance harms the greater good. Embracing ethics and regulation as a partner to innovation can improve existing technologies and shape future technologies.