I’d say no. I don’t think any artifact, whether it’s a simple tool, a comparatively advanced technology or something more abstract such as language or law, can be truly neutral in any absolute sense, because they’re made and used by humans and humans have biases. That said, there’s three closely related and closely interacting aspects to technology: the intent, the design and the implementation. Where I think ethics has been overlooked in the past and is just now starting to become more of a widespread concern is in the design, but it seems to be early days and one of the most critical things to do is to not allow that concern to fade.
The technocracy of Big Tech is structurally hostile to ethical design because it increases the steps in development, costing money, hours and introspection by the self-satisfied toxicity of an industry that routinely mistakes money and influence for wisdom.
That’s where I think activists come in by holding tech companies accountable and introducing ethical considerations into the incentive and disincentive structures of their bottom lines.
But the open source movement has an arguably unique (at least for now) opportunity for activist developers to find ways to undermine, or disrupt if they prefer, the consolidation of wealth and power that’s led to the feudalism of modern software and the oligopolistic balkanization of the internet.
Open source developers are a workforce that holds a lot of potential political and economic power if they’re willing to use it. The idealization at the root of the movement has been largely, though not entirely, co-opted by that same consolidation because in the short term it was easier to work within a conventional hierarchy than rely on volunteerism for organization.
The reality as that for the foreseeable future - and I dearly hope this isn’t the permanent state of affairs because I don’t it’s sustainable - end users are mostly unequipped to hold design itself accountable, though of course they can and should still be activist in the socioeconomic arena. But designers, including software developers, are in a position and have the tools to not take the centralized path of least resistance.
Just my 2¢.