For this second in what will be a regular series of conversations exploring the ethics of the technology industry, I was delighted to be able to turn to one of our current generation’s most important young philosophers of tech.
Around a decade ago, Williams won the Founder’s Award, Google’s highest honor for its employees.
The inaugural winner of Cambridge University’s $100,000 “Nine Dots Prize” for original thinking, Williams was recognized for the fruits of his doctoral research at Oxford University, on how “digital technologies are making all forms of politics worth having impossible, as they privilege our impulses over our intentions and are designed to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities in order to direct us toward goals that may or may not align with our own.” In 2018, he published his brilliantly written book Stand Out of Our Light, an instant classic in the field of tech ethics.
It’s a chilling prospect, and yet somehow, if you read to the end of the interview, you’ll see Williams manages to end on an inspiring and hopeful note.
It’s the feeling that, you know, the car’s already been built, the dashboard’s been calibrated, and now to move humanity forward you just kind of have to hold the wheel straight
I spent my formative years in a town called Abilene, Texas, where my father was a university professor.