The most important question: Should we?

It's easy to get so wrapped up in building what's next that we lose sight of what's important. The future is happening all around us, and there are huge opportunities to shape it in ways that improve our world for current and future generations.

We recently hosted a gathering of leading thinkers and impact entrepreneurs to reflect on hard questions at the intersection of tech, culture, and human well-being.

Our main takeaway: issues relating to the ethics of innovation are proliferating -- and convening diverse perspectives to discuss such issues is vitally important. Here’s what got us thinking:

Engineers at the wheel
From gene editing to AI control, we talked about the importance of collective decision-making at the national, industry, and firm-level, while noting that many of the most critical ethical questions arise at the level of engineers, not CEOs.

Proximity → Empathy
Kinstep CEO Tenzin Seldon said the key question innovators must ask themselves is not "Can we?" but "Should we?" When entrepreneurs fail to engage with populations impacted by their work, it's harder to know.

New humans, new morality
"A new ethics, a new morality, is dying to emerge," said NEO-LIFE publisher and Wired co-founder Jane Metcalfe. "Whatever the next wave of homo sapiens is, we’re making it now."

Unconscious consent
The World Economic Forum's Head of Technology Policy and Partnerships, Zvika Krieger, said governments are "struggling to keep up" and questioned how companies can better inform and protect consumers who seldom read terms of service agreements to which they readily consent.

Desire for well-being
RSA Director Alexa Clay told us how impersonating an Amish futurist at tech summits elicited expressions of deep concern about the impact of new technologies. "I met a lot of people who felt like they were part of an emerging desire to create technologies that allow us to better manage our well-being."

Ethics at West
As an investor and strategic advisor to cutting-edge startups across a wide array of industries, we regularly observe and interact with startups grappling with complex ethical questions.

Indeed, the frequency with which startup founders are presented with vexing ethical questions is one of the main reasons why building a dependable sphere of principled and experienced advisors around founding teams is so critical.

In all our portfolio company relationships, we aim to be the trusted resource that our partners can rely upon to decide what they should being doing -- and then bring that intention to life in ways that fuel long-term growth and impact.