The scene above is hands down my favorite from Jurassic Park. All too often, we get caught up in whether we can do something—not whether or not we should.

Case in point: Uber’s Greyball project.

A Different Era

Twenty years ago, an organization would need to spend tens of millions of dollars to build a powerful new tchotchke. Getting approval from layers of management for such large expenditures wasn’t easy. What’s more, internal governance groups usually would ask questions about the efficacy of these projects. Was [insert name of department or individual executive] being a responsible steward of corporate funds?

My how things have changed.

Twenty years ago, an organization would need to spend tens of millions of dollars to build a powerful new tchotchke.

We live in an era of cloud computing, ridiculously cheap data-storage costs, robust code repositories, Moore’s Law, billion-member social networks, (overly?) powerful search engines, and smartphones. As such, it’s never been easier and cheaper to build something ask for forgiveness later.

Facebook used to famously and unabashedly abide by a mantra of moving fast and breaking things. Not anymore. For their part, it’s hard to argue that Uber and Airbnb would have ascended so far so fast had they routinely asked for permission instead of forgiveness. (It’s telling to note that Uber has only taken its scandals seriously as its valuation has suffered.)

Why is this the case? For starters, the law and other social institutions haven’t kept pace with today’s rapid technological change. All too often, we forget to answer the question, Is this ethical? Lest you minimize the query’s important, make no mistake: technology has never been “neutral.”

Brass Tacks

Starting a new company provides a unique opportunity to get some core tenets right from the get-go. I’m sure that 5marbles will make its fair share of mistakes along the way, but ignoring ethics won’t be one of them. Ethics matter. Customers who want us to build Twitter bots and other ethically questionable tools will have to go elsewhere.

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What say you?