Ethics from Within: Google Glass, the Collingridge Dilemma, and the Mediated Value of Privacy

Science, Technology, and Human Values 44 (2):291-314 (2019)
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Abstract

Following the “control dilemma” of Collingridge, influencing technological developments is easy when their implications are not yet manifest, yet once we know these implications, they are difficult to change. This article revisits the Collingridge dilemma in the context of contemporary ethics of technology, when technologies affect both society and the value frameworks we use to evaluate them. Early in its development, we do not know how a technology will affect the value frameworks from which it will be evaluated, while later, when the implications for society and morality are clearer, it is more difficult to guide the development in a desirable direction. Present-day approaches to this dilemma focus on methods to anticipate ethical impacts of a technology, being too speculative to be reliable, or on ethically regulating technological developments, discarding anticipation of the future implications. We present the approach of technological mediation as an alternative that focuses on the dynamics of the interaction between technologies and human values. By investigating online discussions about Google Glass, we examine how people articulate new meanings of the value of privacy. This study of “morality in the making” allows developing a modest and empirically informed form of anticipation.

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Peter-Paul Verbeek
University of Twente