This profile focuses on normative, evaluative and critical issues in relation to technology and society. These are its central questions: How can technology be developed and used in an ethical way? What good is technology? And how should both society and engineering be organized in order to have technology that is ethically and politically acceptable?
The normative focus in this cluster is reflected in its emphasis on public and private values in relation to individuals and society. You will engage in evaluating or prescribing directions for the development of technology according to these values. The values you will study will include freedom, justice, democracy, autonomy, privacy, human dignity, the intrinsic value of humans and nature, responsibility and well-being. Technologies you will explore will include information technology and robotics, biomedical technology, nanotechnology and environmental technology, among others.
Topics in this profile include the ethical development of technology, ethical use of technology, the ethics and politics of regulating technology, ethics of emerging technologies, technology and the good life, technology and the quality of society, technology and the environment, technology and globalization and others. In this cluster you will focus on studies in ethics and social and political philosophy, combining these with studies from other disciplines, including science and technology studies (technology assessment, sociology of users, scenario studies, and governance studies), social sciences, engineering and medicine.
Technology and the Quality of Life
This course introduces the philosophy and ethics of technology in terms of the good life (also known as quality of life or well-being). The question of what a good life consists of has always been one of the major questions of philosophy. It is also a prominent question in the philosophy of technology, as many evaluations of technology ultimately centre around the question whether particular technologies make our lives better. This course examines philosophical theories of the good life, philosophical theories of technology in relation to the good life. The course also addresses empirical research on subjective well-being, and its applicability to technology assessment. The first part of the course focuses on philosophical theories of the good life, including hedonism, desire-satisfactionism, and objectivist theories of the good life, as well as corresponding research in the social sciences. The second part then relates these to technology, and discusses particular technologies, such as information technology, sustainable technology and medical technology in relation to the quality of life. The aims of the course are both to introduce current theories of the good life and to gain training in applying these theories in the analysis of particular technologies and technological practices.
Technology, Globalisation and the Environment
This course invites students to reflect on problems regarding the relation between technologies and globalisation. Particular attention will be paid to electronic information and communication technologies and to specific topics related to geography, society, politics, energy, animals, and especially environment. We will focus on questions such as: Does globalisation lead to what McLuhan called a “global village”? Do new ICTs “shrink” the world, and in what sense? Do they imply the “death of geography”, or does place and space still matter? If so, how? What kind of “global society”, “global community” or “global culture” is created, if any? Is the network society a “society”? How do the new technologies influence how we think about cultural difference? Do new media lead us to reconsider the duties we have to strangers? Should animals be part of the global moral community? Is technological and economic globalisation necessarily followed by moral and social globalisation? How do new technologies shape global finance? Do new electronic military technologies change international politics and warfare in the 21st century? What is the role of technology in coping with global climate change? Are new energy technologies such as smart grids helping to build a more sustainable world? How can ICTs be developed in a way that aids sustainability? How do they shape the way we frame environmental problems? What are conceptual and empirical relations between nature, technology, and environment? The students will be encouraged to engage with these questions by using philosophical methods (conceptual analysis, argumentation) and by using and producing interdisciplinary research.
Assessment of Emerging Technologies
This course focuses on the complexities of anticipating, normatively assessing and shaping technologies in development. In ethics of technology, governance theories as well as technology assessment, it is now commonplace to state that the course of technology development should be anticipated and that its desirability should be assessed early on. If technology development progresses, it tends to become too entrenched to change its direction. This means, however, that early anticipation and assessment have to take place at a stage when uncertainties abound. Such uncertainties affect both the ‘doing’ (innovation processes) and the assessing of technologies in development. Both assessment and action build on expectations, rather than robust knowledge. Understanding patterns of expectation-building, for instance social dynamics of expectations, but also patterns of assessment, such as patterns of moral argumentation, are useful to understand de-facto assessment as well as to design appropriate methods for dedicated ethical assessment.
The course invites students to critically reflect on the possibilities and difficulties of anticipating and evaluating the desirability of emerging technologies, and to study and develop methods for early anticipation and evaluation that take the surrounding uncertainties into account. The precise setup of the course varies each year, since it is adjusted to on-going research by several staff members.
Learn more about the first year of the Master's programme Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society programme at the University of Twente: