Design & Ethics

Future (Im)perfect – Uncovering the ethical implications of tomorrow’s technologies

Workshop Dates: February 2019

Learn new methods for exploring, identifying, and visualizing potential moral dilemmas that emerge when new technologies are introduced to our everyday lives. Extend our roles as designers to include advocacy for the ethical application of these technologies.

Keywords: Automation, AI, Ethics, Bias, Morals, Privacy, Emerging Technologies


Should we be allowed to program the personality traits of our future children? Should artificial intelligence be used to decide who gets a kidney? If so, what conditions must be present to ensure ethical outcomes for all?

Today’s emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning, gene editing, and lab-grown foods will impact our everyday lives in unprecedented ways. Recent national and international situations have highlighted the need for more ethically-minded thinking about the potential implications of the technologies upon which we rely.

Designers are often tasked with leveraging new technologies to create products and services that will improve our everyday lives. This workshop challenges students to think not only about the potential benefits of these technologies but also to anticipate their ethical consequences on matters of privacy, equality, inclusiveness, human dignity, and sustainability.

How might we use design methods to accelerate our understanding of the moral issues that can arise when emerging technologies are introduced into a specific context?

How might we extend our role as designers to lead with a strong point of view on the ethical use of these technologies to our peers, colleagues, and leaders?

Throughout the workshop, students will be introduced to a variety of methods from speculative design to experiential prototyping to discover the hidden or unintended consequences—both benefits and downsides—of emerging technologies when applied to a specific problem.

Working in small teams, students will situate their project within a context unique to Barcelona: among a native demographic, at a local site, or with respect to a cultural tradition or ritual. Students will use prototyping methods and scenarios to conduct small-scale experiments to discover how a specific emerging technology can radically change interactions and behaviors.

They’ll use their design skills to share their observations and most of all, engage others in a discussion around the open ethical questions they’ve identified regarding these emerging technologies.

Finally, they will extrapolate their learnings by relating the experiences, findings and identified questions to a broader, more global context.

Learning Expectations

  • Explore broad ethical issues related to new technologies
  • Learn design and prototyping tools, methods, and processes
  • Design and deploy micro-experiments to identify potential ethical dilemmas
  • Establish guidelines and parameters for achieving ethical outcomes when a technology is applied to a specific problem brief
  • Identify, summarize, and present insights from their experiment
  • Facilitate discussion among peers