TED Conversations

Damon Horowitz

In-House Philosopher, Google


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LIVE CHAT With Damon Horowitz: When have you realized that you were wrong about what you once thought was right? June 8, 2011, 5-6PM EDT

Join us for a LIVE conversation with serial entrepreneur, philosophy professor, and Google Director of Engineering, Damon Horowitz.

This conversation will open at 5:00PM EDT, June 8th, 2011.

"I am curious to hear what prompts people to moral reflection and reconsideration: When have you realized that you were wrong about what you once thought was right?"


Closing Statement from Damon Horowitz

I’d like to thank everyone for sharing their thoughts and experiences here. My TEDxSV talk was intended as a provocation for the technology industry in particular to reflect further upon our ethical decision making – but I am delighted to see that it has encouraged much broader discussion.

The prominent themes I hear in this conversation reinforce the value of education, experience, and humility in our moral development. So long as we continually challenge ourselves to question our beliefs, there is some small possibility that we will not always be wrong about what is right.

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  • Jun 8 2011: Mr. Horowitz, I would like to ask what do you see as main ideology in current IT development. Is it really only profit? Do you think, if there's potential of change in future?
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      Jun 8 2011: In the present venue, I'm mainly interested in facilitating other peoples' reflection upon the moral dimension of their circumstances. But if asked to offer my own opinion...
      ...I would say that the challenge for the technology industry today is that we have found ourselves to be so extraordinarily successful at building devices which capture peoples' attention (and therefore, their dollars), and we have done so in an environment which allows us to rapidly observe the short-term effects of our design choices (say, which of two possible landing pages on a site has higher conversions)... and thus, as a consequence, most decisions tend to get made on the basis of what might optimize the usage/purchase numbers for our products. We are very good at optimizing for this, we know how to do it, it is easy -- and so we do it.
      In other words, what is missing is consideration of longer-term consequences of the things that we build, and reflection upon whether the choices we are making even now may be questionable on intrinsic grounds, regardless of their short-term benefits.
      • Jun 8 2011: Damon, would you agree that the time frames of our perspectives are shrinking in general? Don't we tend to go for immediate gratification/entertainment rather than investing now for longer-term happiness?

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