Rethinking technology, revitalizing ethics: Overcoming barriers to ethical design

Science and Engineering Ethics 6 (2):207-220 (2000)
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Abstract

This paper explores the role of ethics in design. Traditionally, ethical questions have been seen as marginal issues in the design of technology. Part of the reason for this stems from the widely held notion of technology being “out of control.” This notion is a barrier to what I call “ethical design” because it implies that ethics has no role to play in the development of technology. This view, however, is challenged by recent work in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS). Looking into the dynamics of technological change, STS scholars argue that human choices are present at every stage of a technology’s development and, furthermore, that human values are reflected in the very design of artifacts. This alternative view suggests that ethics can and should be included in the design process. Drawing on examples from the privacy arena. I point to some of the potential advantages of addressing ethical concerns early on in the design of a technology. I conclude with some general strategies for bringing ethics back into design.

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