Kristen Nixon

Tech and Changemaking Resources:  Societal impact + Ethics

As discussed in my original blog post, technology is an incredibly powerful force in shaping modern society, and the consequences of lack of ethical thinking amongst scientists and engineers can be staggering.  Scientists and engineers build things that deeply affect people on a large scale by nature of the profession, although it feels like more of an indirect impact compared to that of a lawyer or doctor. One ethics course for STEM students is not enough. Given the rapid pace of acceleration and innovation within these tech fields, students should engage with ethics at multiple points throughout their college experience. Students should be consistently discussing and grappling with the various ethical dilemmas that are arising or may arise due in the tech sector.

These resources can be embedded into a curriculum, used as group discussion pieces, or guide individualize learning.

Ethics resources

Impact of Tech on Society

  • A Human Algorithm: A groundbreaking narrative on the urgency of ethically designed AI and a guidebook to reimagining life in the era of intelligent technology.
  • Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy: A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on the mathematical models that pervade modern life — and threaten to rip apart our social fabric
  • 2019 Skoll World Forum: Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights:  As the uses of artificial intelligence grow exponentially each year, there is a possible future where AI exacerbates injustice, deepens societal divides, and becomes a tool to violate or deny human rights. But, there’s another “possible”—where AI is used to bolster solutions to difficult challenges.
  • Climate: A New Story: Equipping the script on climate change, Eisenstein makes a case for a wholesale reimagining of the framing, tactics, and goals we employ in our journey to heal from ecological destruction.
  • Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.   Architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart present an integration of design and science that provides enduring benefits for society from safe materials, water and energy in circular economies and eliminates the concept of waste.
  • The Great Hack: a Netflix documentary that explores how Cambridge Analytica came to symbolize the dark side of social media in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

Is there something you would like to add to the list? Email Beeta Ansari, Ashoka U COO, at

Kristen Nixon is a rising senior at Johns Hopkins University where she is studying engineering. She served as an Ashoka U summer intern from June – August 2019. Read more about her experiences in this blog