WASP-HS Workshop in conjunction with the conference AI for Humanity and Society 2023
Reconfiguring the Mold: Behavior Science and Ethical Tech Culture
Tech companies have mastered the science of behavioral influence. Why aren’t they applying this
mastery to their workplaces and industry to promote their own ethical principles?
Background: In recent years, tech companies have eclipsed the work of Freud, Piaget, Watson, and
every other psychologist, sum total, in their influence on human behavior. Indeed, the tech industry
has exploited behavior science to achieve phenomenal financial gains and a new kind of global,
behavioral dominance. The influence of tech on consumers is wielded less through blunt rewards or
punishments than through more subtle and sustainable levers, recognizable to students of social
psychology and “nudge theory”. Behaviors that feel easiest and most appealing tend to be the most
reinforcing (eg., “infinite scroll”), while tech “sludges” create friction, often impeding salutary
behaviors. In addition to capturing attention, AI-powered tools help companies gauge and shape our
preferences. Yet tech leaders have shown a troubling disinterest in behavior science when it comes
to operationalizing and implementing the ethical principles stated by their own companies, and
those espoused by industry consortia and governance bodies. In a rapidly advancing epoch of
generative AI, such faux-ignorance has become increasingly dangerous.
Topic/Goal of Workshop
This workshop will explore how behavior science might be channeled to
foster tech workplace cultures (and an industry) which prioritize ethical considerations throughout
the development cycle. We will interrogate:
● How might nudge and sludge principles be applied such that the prioritization of ethics
becomes the path of least resistance within companies and the industry at-large?
● What are the most critical outcomes to target through behavioral interventions (eg.,
explainability/legibility, impact and bias assessments, human oversight, whistle-blowing)?
● What can we learn from the successes and failures of ethical behavioral/cultural
interventions in other industries (eg. finance) that might be applied to the tech industry?
This workshop will be held Monday, November 14th, 9am-12 noon, and is open to
industry, academic, policy and other stakeholders interested in tech practices that adhere to ethical
principles and guidelines. No expertise in behavior science nor technical skill is required. We will
begin with a panel discussion including a psychologist researching AI oversight, an XAI researcher
with cognitive/behavior science expertise, and an ethics expert from the financial sector studying
the applications to AI governance. We will transition into interdisciplinary breakout group
discussions, and reconvene to discuss future steps for research collaboration and implementation.
Call for participation
Potential workshop participants are invited to submit a brief bio and statement of interest, up to 200 words, stating their relevant research and/or practical interest and experience. Please email to email@example.com by July 7, 2023
Please note that in order to participate in this workshop you must also register for the conference via the event page. Registration for the conference opens on 15 August.
Annabel Gillard, MSc student in Behavioural Science at LSE, Member of the International Advisory Council at the Institute of Business Ethics and Member of the Advisory Board at Blueprint for a Better Business. MA in Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence from North Eastern University (London).
Caroline Friedman Levy, Research-to-Policy Collaboration Scholar at the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania State University.
Luca Nannini, Marie Curie industrial PhD student; Minsait by Indra Sistemas and CiTIUS by University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.