There might not be a specific nano-ethics, but there definitely is an ethics of new & emerging science and technology (NEST), with characteristic tropes and patterns of moral argumentation. Ethical discussion in and around nanoscience and technology reflects such NEST-ethics. We offer an inventory of the arguments, and show patterns in their evolution, in arenas full of proponents and opponents. We also show that there are some nano-specific issues: in how size matters, and when agency is delegated to smart devices. (...) Our overall approach is a pragmatist ethics, and we conclude that struggle (and learning) might be more productive than models emphasizing consensus. (shrink)
During the last decades several tools have been developed to anticipate the future impact of new and emerging technologies. Many of these focus on hard, quantifiable impacts, investigating how novel technologies may affect health, environment and safety. Much less attention is paid to what might be called soft impacts: the way technology influences, for example, the distribution of social roles and responsibilities, moral norms and values, or identities. Several types of technology assessment and of scenario studies can be used to (...) anticipate such soft impacts. We argue, however, that these methods do not recognize the dynamic character of morality and its interaction with technology. As a result, they miss an important opportunity to broaden the scope of social and political deliberation on new and emerging technologies.In this paper we outline a framework for building scenarios that enhance the techno-moral imagination by anticipating how technology, morality and their interaction might evolve. To show what kind of product might result from this framework, a scenario is presented as an exemplar. This scenario focuses on developments in biomedical nanotechnology and the moral regime of experimenting with human beings. Finally, the merits and limitations of our framework and the resulting type of scenarios are discussed. (shrink)
In recent years, several authors have argued that the desirability of novel technologies should be assessed early, when they are still emerging. Such an ethical assessment of emerging technologies is by definition focused on an elusive object. Usually promises, expectations, and visions of the technology are taken as a starting point. As Nordmann and Rip have pointed out in a recent article, however, ethicists should not take for granted the plausibility of such expectations and visions. In this paper, we explore (...) how the quality of expectations on emerging technologies might be assessed when engaging in a reflection on the desirability of emerging technologies. We propose that an assessment of expectations’ plausibility should focus on statements on technological feasibility, societal usability, and desirability of the expected technology. Whereas the feasibility statement and, to a lesser extent, the usability statements are frequently quite futuristic, the claims on desirability, by contrast, often display a conservative stance towards the future. Assessing the quality of expectations and visions on behalf of emerging technologies requires, then, a careful and well-directed use of both skepticism and imagination. We conclude with a brief overview of the tools and methods ethicists could use to assess claims made on behalf of emerging technologies and improve the ethical reflection on them. (shrink)
Neither traditional philosophy nor current applied ethics seem able to cope adequately with the highly dynamic character of our modern technological culture. This is because they have insufficient insight into the moral significance of technological artifacts and systems. Here, much can be learned from recent science and technology studies. They have opened up the black box of technological developments and have revealed the intimate intertwinement of technology and society in minute detail. However, while applied ethics is characterized by a certain (...) “technology blindness,” the most influential approaches within STS show a “normative deficit” and display an agnostic or even antagonistic attitude toward ethics. To repair the blind spots of both applied ethics and STS,the authors sketch the contours of a pragmatist approach. They will explore the tasks and tools of a pragmatist ethics and pay special attention to the exploration of future worlds disclosed and shaped by technology and the management of deep value conflicts inherent to a pluralist society. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that we can no longer afford to ignore technology’s so-called ‘soft’ impacts, as this type of impact is becoming increasingly prominent in affluent societies where people have sufficient resources to pursue self-realization and where technologies are becoming more and more ‘intimate’ as they pervade our life world. These soft impacts come with their own type of normative challenges. The first challenge is to acknowledge the mutual shaping of technology and morality that causes soft impacts to (...) be fundamentally morally ambiguous. The second challenge is to anticipate soft impacts, which requires a rich and thick description of our morally laden current practices in the light of plausible technomoral change provoked by emerging technologies. The third and last challenge is to avoid both relativism and foundationalism, by opting for an open and learning attitude vis à vis the ways new and emerging technologies put our current morals into question. (shrink)
Technologies fulfill a social role in the sense that they influence the moral actions of people, often in unintended and unforeseen ways. Scientists and engineers are already accepting much responsibility for the technological, economical and environmental aspects of their work. This article asks them to take an extra step, and now also consider the social role of their products. The aim is to enable engineers to take a prospective responsibility for the future social roles of their technologies by providing them (...) with a matrix that helps to explore in advance how emerging technologies might plausibly affect the reasons behind people’s (moral) actions. On the horizontal axis of the matrix, we distinguished the three basic types of reasons that play a role in practical judgment: what is the case, what can be done and what should be done. On the vertical axis we distinguished the morally relevant classes of issues: stakeholders, consequences and the good life. To illustrate how this matrix may work in practice, the final section applies the matrix to the case of the Google PowerMeter. (shrink)
While engineering ethics usually addresses the responsibility of engineers in rare cases of whistle blowing, the authors broach the question to what extent engineers can be held responsible in normal practice. For this purpose, they define the conditions under which individuals can be imputable as they prevail in ethics and common sense. From outcomes of science and technology studies research, the authors conclude that these conditions are seldom met in modern technoscientific research practice. By examining such practice in a case (...) study and comparing the results with perceptions of engineers on social responsibility as expressed in interviews, the authors are able to demonstrate that a change in structural characteristics of this practice, such as funding rules, stimulates engineers to attune the inner politics of science to wider societal policies and concerns, and it helps them to overcome the shifting of social responsibility to others as a consequence of the lack of agency they usually perceive. (shrink)
In this article we briefly summarize how converging technologies challenge elements of the existing symbolic order, as shown in the contributions to this special issue. We then identify the vision of ‘life as a do it yourself kit’ as a common denominator in the various forms of convergence and proceed to show how this vision provokes unrest and debate about existing moral frameworks and taboos. We conclude that, just as the problems of the industrial revolution sparked off the now broadly (...) established ideal of sustainability the converging technologies should be governed by the ideal of ‘human sustainability’. The essence of this ideal is formed by the ongoing discussion about the extent to which we may, or should want to, ‘make’ our environment and ourselves, and when it is better to simply accept what is given and what happens to us. (shrink)
This book addresses the methodological issues involved in responsible innovation and provides an overview of recent applications of multidisciplinary research. Responsible innovation involves research into the ethical and societal aspects of new technologies (e.g. ICT, nanotechnology, biotechnology and brain sciences) and of changes in technological systems (e.g. energy, transport, agriculture and water). This research is highly multidisciplinary. It involves close collaboration between researchers in such diverse fields as ethics, social science, law, economics, applied science, engineering - as well as innovative, (...) design-oriented and policy-relevant. Although there is a trend to engage ethicists and social scientists early in technology development, most literature in the field of Technology Assessment or Ethics of Technology is still aimed at one discipline whereas this book incorporates different approaches and to discuss experiences, lessons and more general theoretical issues. (shrink)
Converging Technologies, Shifting Boundaries Content Type Journal Article Pages 213-216 DOI 10.1007/s11569-009-0075-x Authors Tsjalling Swierstra, University of Twente Enschede Netherlands Marianne Boenink, University of Twente Enschede Netherlands B. Walhout, Rathenau Institute The Hague Netherlands R. Van Est, Rathenau Institute The Hague Netherlands Journal NanoEthics Online ISSN 1871-4765 Print ISSN 1871-4757 Journal Volume Volume 3 Journal Issue Volume 3, Number 3.
By now, the laboratory tradition, crafting transportable knowledge that allows for comparison, has been amply studied. However, other knowledge traditions, notably that of the clinic, deserve further articulation. The authors contribute to this by unraveling some specificities of rehabilitation practice. How do laboratory and clinical traditions in rehabilitation relate to independence? The first seeks to quantify people's independence; the latter attends to qualitatively different ways of being independent. While measuring independence is a matter of aggregating scores on a priori established (...) dimensions, clinical rehabilitation concerns coordinating different ways of being independent. While independence scales map a linear development in time, rehabilitation participants juggle with time, including uncertain futures in their present. In clinical practice, then, independence is neither a single, coherent, fact nor a clear-cut, stable goal. Instead, professionals as well as patients work by creatively doctoring with the large variety of elements that are relevant to daily life with long-term disabilities. (shrink)
Several threads of research towards developing artificial gametes are ongoing in a number of research labs worldwide. The development of a technology that could generate gametes in vitro has significant potential for human reproduction, and raises a lot of interest, as evidenced by the frequent and extensive media coverage of research in this area. We have asked researchers involved in work with artificial gametes, ethicists, and representatives of potential user groups, how they envisioned the use of artificial gametes in human (...) reproduction. In the course of three focus groups, the participants commented on the various aspects involved. The two recurring themes were the strength of the claim of becoming a parent genetically, and the importance of responsible communication of science. The participants concurred that (a) the desire or need to have genetic offspring of one’s own does not warrant the investment of research resources into these technologies, and that (b) given the minefield in terms of moral controversy and sensitivity that characterises the issues involved, how information is communicated and handled is of great importance. (shrink)
Broad Morals and Broad Reason: Reconciling inclusive ethics with psychological realism Many of today’s problems revolve around distance and proximity. Progressives argue that a universalist, inclusive ethics requires us to bridge distances in identity, space, and time. Conservatives object that such bridging is psychologically unrealistic: people of flesh and blood can only care about whom/what is close-by. Evolutionary and psychological research seems to corroborate this sobering view. Many researchers confirm that our intuitions (‘System 1’) are groupish and short-sighted, and largely (...) deaf to the appeal of rational universalism (‘System 2’). But not all agree. We distinguish four ‘evo-progressive’ attempts to reconcile evolution and psychology with a universalist, inclusive ethics. Singer and Pinker (1), Buchanan and Powell (2), and Sunstein (3) contend that a reason-based, inclusive ethics is psychologically feasible, but that such an ethics has to be thin, solely focusing on rights and no-harm. By contrast, Haidt (4) argues that an inclusive ethics should be ‘broad’, also encompassing moral domains like sacrality, loyalty and authority. This implies for him that it cannot be reason-based. We argue that a broad form of inclusive ethics can and should be reason-based, but that this requires a rethinking of ‘reason’. We show that the evo-progressives’ conviction that a rational ethics is by definition thin, results from their theoreticistic conception of reason. But reason can also have more mimetic-embodied or mythical-narrative forms. These do allow for a broad, rational, inclusive ethics that can motivate real people to include stakeholders that are distant in identity, place, and time. (shrink)
This book offers a comprehensive overview of current developments in the field of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). Divided into three parts, the book first presents reflections on the concept of RI from various angles: how did it come about, who is involved and how might in be applied in various contexts, such as the academic environment or in developing countries. The second part discusses the actual application of RRI to technology development: for climate engineering, water management and energy technology (...) along with a general discussion on how to integrate RRI in innovation trajectories. The last part offers a closer look at the application of RRI to the business context. This part offers lessons from comparable concepts such as social and sustainability innovation as well as insights from two case-studies, one in the food sector and the other in data management. As a whole, the book contributes to the ongoing development of the framework of RRI by giving an overview of the state-of-the art research, presenting the lessons learned from several case studies, and showing the way for future application of RI in other fields and cultural contexts, such as industry and developing countries. (shrink)
In this review I argue that Puech draws on two important currents in modern thought: the criticism of the ontological and social priority of conflict, and the rehabilitation of praxis vis-à-vis theoria. Still, his plea for a non-confrontational art of living leaves important questions unanswered. What is the problem exactly? What does exactly count as confrontational? What is non-confrontation exactly meant to solve? What is the antiposition here? And: how does this new art of living relate to the political and (...) ethical varieties of Technology Assessment? (shrink)
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