A principle concern of Ben's research is the relationship between design and ethics. This is usually thought of in terms of applied ethics - as the application of ethical theory to design practice in terms of issues such as agency or our relationship to technology or our environment. There are problems with this however. The two most commonly articulated approaches to normative ethics, consequentialism and deontology, depend on procedures, optimisation and predefined rules, that have been shown to be unworkable in the complex and ill-defined situations with which design is concerned.
Noting that such situations, which Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber termed "wicked problems", are similar in structure to the dilemmas with which normative ethics is both most concerned and confused, Ben has suggested that the way designers work with these situations, which they do as a matter of course, can inform how we consider ethics, thus inverting the more usual hierarchy.
Building on ideas from cybernetics and radical constructivism in the work of figures such as Heinz von Foerster and Ranulph Glanville, Ben has argued that designers implicitly consider ethical questions within their core methods, such as in drawing, and that ethical considerations are therefore a part of design rather than something to be applied to it. Through this, Ben has suggested ways in which ethical questions in design can be approached in design's own terms, complementing the idea that design has its own epistemological foundations as a discipline rather than needing to import them from science.