Taking tech firms seriously as sources of moral ideas

I’ve written in the past about the Great Disruptive Project engaged in by firms like Uber, seeking change in the world in a way which expresses a moral vision, albeit often somewhat inchoately. This is something which emanates from the founders and plays a crucial role in establishing their charismatic authority and to varying degrees motivates the staff. But what about the moral proposition to the world? There’s an interesting section by Rana Foroohar in her Don’t Be Evil pg 154 which made me think more about the offering to customers:

these people embodied the image that Uber wanted to portray to the world of a company that was boldly reinventing work by offering anyone with a valid driver’s license and a vehicle the opportunity to become an “entrepreneur” with flexibility, control, and the ability to earn as they liked in between other commitments. (There were, in attendance, single moms who drove to earn school fees, and part-time college students paying for their educations behind the wheel.)

We can and should be sceptical of this. But that doesn’t we can deny it has a social effect. Even when people reject this, they are still responding to it. The size and influence of Uber means this moral vision comes to expand and extend the stock of moral ideas which are potentially available in the social order. In this sense I think we need to take tech firms seriously as what Charles Taylor describes as moral sources. They are literally sources of moral ideas, inevitably working on the existing stock as all moral agents do, but adding to them in the process.

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