Responsible Tech Playbook

Responsible Technology Guide

Those of us who develop software need not say what a huge impact it has had on humanity in the current century. I have long argued that this places a serious responsibility on our profession. Whether we are asked or not, we have a duty to ensure that our systems do not degrade our society. But amid the turmoil of so many software projects, it can be difficult to step back and understand the implications of our work. In recent months my colleagues at Thoughtworks have put together a catalog of techniques we can use to address this issue, which they have published as Responsible Technology Book.

The game book is a free download of a PDF of about 50 slides, most of which is a summary of a dozen tools and methods that teams can use to better understand their responsibilities. Each abstract is a few slides that describe the basics of the technique: what it is, who created it, when we should use it, how it works and our perspective on its place in our development efforts.

My colleagues have highlighted three techniques that are particularly appropriate as first steps to this collection:

  • Tour with me Is a set of cards that use the metaphor of a researcher and risk areas to help staff discuss and understand potential hazards in their product plans.
  • Scan results This is some activities and materials for the workshop to uncover the unintended consequences associated with the technology. It encourages teams to uncover these consequences and develop plans to reduce any problems they find.
  • Tech tarot cards They are cards that describe “provocations” such as: how the product can be used in unexpected ways, which users may deviate, and what may happen if the product is overused.

As these examples suggest, these techniques are most often ways to hold structured workshops that help people explore different perspectives on their product. They also encourage involving a wider range of stakeholders in the discussion and inventing ways to track bad results and deal with them if they appear.

As professionals, we must take responsibility for the results of our work – whether it conforms to our intent or not. We cannot evade this responsibility by saying that we are acting in accordance with our manager’s instructions, nor can we avoid having to consider how our algorithms may lead to malignancy. Such techniques help us to explore our responsibilities and take considerate actions to meet them.

for further reading

You can download A technological guide is responsible as a PDF file From the Thoughtworks website.

Last year my fellow JoJo Swords wrote an article that explains more about Why does it matter That we understand our responsibility for our technology. At the same time, Rebecca Parsons and Chad Washington addressed the issue in A Online seminar.

Martin Fowler: October 6, 2021




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