Technoethics (TE) is an interdisciplinary research area concerned with all moral and ethical aspects of technology in society. It draws on theories and methods from multiple knowledge domains (such as communications, social sciences information studies, technology studies, applied ethics, and philosophy) to provide insights on ethical dimensions of technological systems and practices for advancing a technological society.
Technoethics views technology and ethics as socially embedded enterprises and focuses on discovering the ethical use of technology, protecting against the misuse of technology, and devising common principles to guide new advances in technological development and application to benefit society. Typically, scholars in technoethics have a tendency to conceptualize technology and ethics as interconnected and embedded in life and society. Technoethics denotes a broad range of ethical issues revolving around technology- from specific areas of focus affecting professionals working with technology to broader social, ethical, and legal issues concerning the role of technology in society and everyday life.
Technoethical perspectives are constantly in transition as technology advances in areas unseen by creators, as users change the intended uses of new technologies. Humans cannot be separated from these technologies because it is an inherent part of consciousness and meaning in life therefore, requiring an ethical model. The short term and longer term ethical considerations for technologies do not just engage the creator and producer but makes the user question their beliefs in correspondence with this technology and how governments must allow, react to, change, and/or deny technologies.
- 1 Definitions
- 2 History
- 2.1 Ethics theories
- 2.2 Historical framing of technology – four main periods
- 2.3 Significant technoethical developments in society
- 2.4 Technological consciousness
- 2.5 Misunderstandings of consciousness and technology
- 2.6 Current issues
- 2.7 Recent developments
- 2.8 Future developments
- 3 Areas of technoethical inquiry
- 4 Organizational technoethics
- 5 Key scholarly contributions
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
- 9 Further reading
Technoethics is “an interdisciplinary field concerned with all ethical aspects of technology" and human practices related to technology. The field examines all social and ethical aspects of the design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of science and technology in society.
Using theories and methods from multiple domains, technoethics provides insights on ethical aspects of technological systems and practices, examines technology-related social policies and interventions, and provides guidelines for how to ethically use new advancements in technology. Technoethics provides a systems theory and methodology to guide a variety of separate areas of inquiry into human-technological activity and ethics. Moreover, the field unites both technocentric and bio-centric philosophies, providing "conceptual grounding to clarify the role of technology to those affected by it and to help guide ethical problem solving and decision making in areas of activity that rely on technology." As a bio-techno-centric field, technoethics "has a relational orientation to both technology and human activity"; it provides "a system of ethical reference that justifies that profound dimension of technology as a central element in the attainment of a ‘finalized’ perfection of man.”
- Ethics address the issues of what is ‘right’, what is ‘just’, and what is ‘fair'. Ethics describe moral principles influencing conduct; accordingly, the study of ethics focuses on the actions and values of people in society (what people do and how they believe they should act in the world).
- Technology is the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment; it may draw upon a variety of fields, including industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science. Technology “is core to human development and a key focus for understanding human life, society and human consciousness.” 
Though the ethical consequences of new technologies have existed since Socrates' attack on writing in Plato's dialogue, Phaedrus, the formal field of technoethics had only existed for a few decades. The first traces of TE can be seen in Dewey and Pearce’s pragmatism. With the advent of the industrial revolution, it was easy to see that technological advances were going to influence human activity. This is why they put emphasis on the responsible use of technology.
The term "technoethics" was coined in 1977 by the philosopher Mario Bunge to describe the responsibilities of technologists and scientists to develop ethics as a branch of technology. Bunge argued that the current state of technological progress was guided by ungrounded practices based on limited empirical evidence and trial-and-error learning. He recognized that “the technologist must be held not only technically but also morally responsible for whatever he designs or executes: not only should his artifacts be optimally efficient but, far from being harmful, they should be beneficial, and not only in the short run but also in the long term.” He recognized a pressing need in society to create a new field called 'Technoethics' to discover rationally grounded rules for guiding science and technological progress.
With the spurt in technological advances came technological inquiry. Societal views of technology were changing; people were becoming more critical of the developments that were occurring and scholars were emphasizing the need to understand and to take a deeper look and study the innovations. Associations were uniting scholars from different disciplines to study the various aspects of technology. The main disciplines being philosophy, social sciences and science and technology studies (STS). Though many technologies were already focused on ethics, each technology discipline was separated from each other, despite the potential for the information to intertwine and reinforce itself. As technologies became increasingly developed in each discipline, their ethical implications paralleled their development, and became increasingly complex. Each branch eventually became united, under the term technoethics, so that all areas of technology could be studied and researched based on existing, real-world examples and a variety of knowledge, rather than just discipline-specific knowledge.
Technoethics involves the ethical aspects of technology within a society that is shaped by technology. This brings up a series of social and ethical questions regarding new technological advancements and new boundary crossing opportunities. Before moving forward and attempting to address any ethical questions and concerns, it is important to review the 3 major ethical theories to develop a perspective foundation :
- Utilitarianism (Bentham, J) is an ethical theory which attempts to maximize happiness and reduce suffering for the greatest amount of people. Utilitarianism focused on results and consequences rather than rules.
- Duty Ethics (Kant) notes the obligations that one has to society and follows society’s universal rules. It focuses on the rightness of actions instead of the consequences, focusing on what an individual should do.
- Virtue Ethics is another main perspective in normative ethics. It highlights the role and virtues that an individual’s character contains to be able to determine or evaluate ethical behaviour in society.
- Relationship ethics states that care and consideration are both derived from human communication. Therefore, ethical communication is the core substance to maintain healthy relationships.
Historical framing of technology – four main periods
- Greek civilization defined technology as techné. Techné is “the set principles, or rational method, involved in the production of an object or the accomplishment of an end; the knowledge such as principles of method; art." This conceptualization of technology used during the early Greek and Roman period to denote the mechanical arts, construction, and other efforts to create, in Cicero's words, a "second nature" within the natural world.
- Modern conceptualization of technology as invention materialized in the 17th century in Bacon’s futuristic vision of a perfect society governed by engineers and scientists in Saloman’s House, to raise the importance of technology in society.
- The German term "Tecknik" was used in the 19th-20th century. Technik is the totality of processes, machines, tools and systems employed in the practical arts and Engineering. Webber popularized it when it was used in broader fields. Mumford said it was underlying a civilization. Know as: before 1750: Eotechnic, in 1750-1890: Paleoethnic and in 1890: Neoethnic. Place it at the center of social life in close connection to social progress and societal change. Mumford says that a machine cannot be divorced from its larger social pattern, for it is the pattern that gives it meaning and purpose.
- Rapid advances in technology provoked a negative reaction from scholars who saw technology as a controlling force in society with the potential to destroy how people live (Technological Determinism). Heidegger warned people that technology was dangerous in that it exerted control over people through its mediating effects, thus limiting authenticity of experience in the world that defines life and gives life meaning. It is an intimate part of the human condition, deeply entrenched in all human history, society and mind.
Significant technoethical developments in society
Many advancements within the past decades have added to the field of technoethics. There are multiple concrete examples that have illustrated the need to consider ethical dilemmas in relation to technological innovations. Beginning in the 1940s influenced by the British eugenic movement, the Nazis conduct “racial hygiene” experiments causing widespread, global anti-eugenic sentiment. In the 1950s the first satellite Sputnik 1 orbited the earth, the Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant is the first nuclear power plant to be opened, the American nuclear tests take place. The 1960s brought about the first manned moon landing, ARPANET created which leads to the later creation of the Internet, first heart transplantation completed, and the Telstar communications satellite is launched. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were further manned and unmanned moon landings, the green revolution, computer language is created for computer programming, 1970s recession, Supercomputers and the Personal Calculator enter the mass market, energy crisis, and Personal computers enter the home on a large scale. In the 1990s there was the mass use of the internet, Napster and the rise of online piracy and file sharing, Y2K, beginning of email, instant messaging, pagers, cell phone, MP3 player, CD burner, satellite phone, Linux, Java programming language created, Human Genome Project begins, Hubble telescope, Genetically Modified food, and Mars Pathfinder landing. In the 2000s there was the development of the Web 2.0, Electronic commerce, Dot-com bubble, Robotics, Telerobotics, Wireless internet, social networking, Text messaging, YouTube, Wikipedia, Cyber bullying, Large Hadron Collider, Mars Exploration Rover, social media,location capabilities on cell devices, new capabilities of cellular devices, and Wi-fi.
Technological consciousness is a term that describes the relationship between humans and technology. Technology is seen as an integral component of human consciousness and development. Technology, consciousness and society are intertwined in a relational process of creation that is key to human evolution. Technology is rooted in the human mind, and is made manifest in the world in the form of new understandings and artifacts. The process of technological consciousness frames the inquiry into ethical responsibility concerning technology by grounding technology in human life.
The structure of technological consciousness is relational but also situational, organizational, aspectual and integrative. Technological consciousness situates new understandings by creating a context of time and space. As well, technological consciousness organizes disjointed sequences of experience under a sense of unity that allows for a continuity of experience. The aspectual component of technological consciousness recognizes that individuals can only be conscious of aspects of an experience, not the whole thing. For this reason, technology manifests itself in processes that can be shared with others. The integrative characteristics of technological consciousness are assimilation, substitution and conversation. Assimilation allows for unfamiliar experiences to be integrated with familiar ones. Substitution is a metaphorical process allowing for complex experiences to be codified and shared with others — for example, language. Conversation is the sense of an observer within an individual's consciousness, providing stability and a standpoint from which to interact with the process.
Misunderstandings of consciousness and technology
The common misunderstandings about consciousness and technology are listed as follows. The first misunderstanding is that consciousness is only in the head when in fact, consciousness is not only in the head meaning that “[c]onsciousness is responsible for the creation of new conscious relations wherever imagined, be it in the head, on the street or in the past.” The second misunderstanding is technology is not a part of consciousness. The truth is that technology is a part of consciousness as “the conceptualization of technology has gone through drastic changes.” The third misunderstanding is that technology controls society and consciousness, when really technology does not control society and consciousness; meaning “that technology is rooted in consciousness as an integral part of mental life for everyone. This understanding will most likely alter how both patients and psychologists deal with the trials and tribunes of living with technology.” The last misunderstanding is society controls technology and consciousness which is not true, society does not control technology and consciousness. “…(other) accounts fail to acknowledge the complex relational nature of technology as an operation within mind and society. This realization shifts the focus on technology to its origins within the human mind as explained through the theory of technological consciousness.”
- Consciousness (C) is only a part of the head: C is responsible for the creation of new conscious relations
- Technology (T) is not part of C: Humans cannot be separated from technology
- T controls society and C: Technology cannot control the mind
- Society controls T and C: Society fails to take in account the consideration of society shaping what technology gets developed?
Ethical challenges arise in many different situations,
- Human knowledge processes
- Workplace discrimination
- Strained work and life balance in technologically enhanced work environments
- digital divide: Inequalities in information access for parts of the population
- Unequal opportunities for scientific and technological development
- Norris says access to information and knowledge resources within a knowledge society tend to favour the economically privileged who have greater access to technological tools needed to access information and knowledge resources disseminated online and the privatization of knowledge
- Inequality in terms of how scientific and technological knowledge is developed around the globe. Developing countries do not have the same opportunities as developed countries to invest in costly large-scale research and expensive research facilities and instrumentation
- Organizational responsibility and accountability issues
- Intellectual property issues
- Information overload: Information processing theory is working memory that has a limited capacity and too much information can lead to cognitive overload resulting in loss of information from short term memory
- Limit an organization’s ability to innovate and respond for change
- Knowledge society is intertwined with changing technology requiring new skills of its workforce. Cutler says that there is the perception that older workers lack experience with new technology and that retaining programs may be less effective and more expensive for older workers. Cascio says that there is a growth of virtual organizations. Saetre & Sornes say that it is a blurring of the traditional time and space boundaries has also led to many cases in the blurring of work and personal life
- Negative impacts of many scientific and technological innovations have on humans and the environment has led to some skepticism and resistance to increasing dependence on technology within the Knowledge Society. Doucet calls for city empowerment to have the courage and foresight to make decisions that are acceptable its habitants rather that succumb to global consumer capitalism and the forces of international corporations on national and local governments
- Scientific and technological innovations that have transformed organizational life within a global economy have also supplanted human autonomy and control in work within a technologically oriented workplace
- The persuasive potential of technology raises the question of “how sensitive ... designers and programmers [should] be to the ethics of the persuasive technology they design.” Technoethics can be used to determine the level of ethical responsibility that should be associated with outcomes of the use of technology, whether intended or unintended
- Rapidly changing landscape of organizational life and recent history of unethical business practices have given rise to public debates concerning organizational responsibility and trust. The advent of virtual organizations and telework has bolstered ethical problems by providing more opportunities for fraudulent behaviour and the production of misinformation. Concerted efforts are required to uphold ethical values in advancing new knowledge and tools within societal relations which do not exclude people or limit liberties of some people at the expense of others
Digital copyrights are a heated issue because there are so many sides to the discussion. There are ethical considerations surrounding the artist, producer, end user, and the country are intertwined. Not to mention the relationships with other countries and the impact on the use (or no use) of content housed in their countries. In Canada, national laws such as the Copyright Act and the history behind Bill C-32 are just the beginning of the government’s attempt to shape the “wild west” of Canadian Internet activities. The ethical considerations behind Internet activities such a peer-to-peer file sharing involve every layer of the discussion – the consumer, artist, producer, music/movie/software industry, national government, and international relations. Overall, technoethics forces the “big picture” approach to all discussions on technology in society. Although time consuming, this “big picture” approach offers some level of reassurance when considering that any law put in place could drastically alter the way we interact with our technology and thus the direction of work and innovation in the country.
The use of copyrighted material to create new content is a hotly debated topic. The emergence of the musical "mashup" genre has compounded the issue of creative licensing. A moral conflict is created between those who believe that copyright protects any unauthorized use of content, and those who maintain that sampling and mash-ups are acceptable musical styles and, though they use portions of copyrighted material, the end result is a new creative piece which is the property of the creator, and not of the original copyright holder. Whether or not the mashup genre should be allowed to use portions of copyrighted material to create new content is one which is currently under debate.
Since many years, new technologies took an important place in social, cultural, political, and economic life. Thanks to the democratization of informatics access and the networks globalization, the number of exchange and transaction is in perpetual progress.
A lot of people are exploiting the facilities and anonymity that modern technologies offer in order to commit multiple criminal activities. Cybercrime is one of the fastest growing areas of crime. The problem is that some laws that professes to protect people from those who would do wrong things via digital means also threatens to take away people freedom.
Privacy vs. security: Full-body airport scanners
Since the introduction of full body X-ray scanners to airports in 2007, many concerns over traveler privacy have arisen. Individuals are asked to step inside a rectangular machine that takes an alternate wavelength image of the person’s naked body for the purpose of detecting metal and non-metal objects being carried under the clothes of the traveler. This screening technology comes in two forms, millimeter wave technology (MM-wave technology) or backscatter X-rays (similar to x-rays used by dentists). Full-body scanners were introduced into airports to increase security and improve the quality of screening for objects such as weapons or explosives due to an increase of terrorist attacks involving airplanes occurring in the early 2000s.
Ethical concerns of both travelers and academic groups include fear of humiliation due to the disclosure of anatomic or medical details, exposure to a low level of radiation (in the case of backscatter X-ray technology), violation of modesty and personal privacy, clarity of operating procedures, the use of this technology to discriminate against groups, and potential misuse of this technology for reasons other than detecting concealed objects. Also people with religious beliefs that require them to remain physically covered (arms, legs, face etc.) at all times will be unable and morally opposed to stepping inside of this virtually intrusive scanning technology. The Centre for Society, Science and Citizenship have discussed their ethical concerns including the ones mentioned above and suggest recommendations for the use of this technology in their report titled "Whole Body Imaging at airport checkpoints: the ethical and policy context" (2010).
Privacy and GPS technologies
The discourse around GPS tracking devices and geolocation technologies and this contemporary technology’s ethical ramifications on privacy is growing as the technology becomes more prevalent in society. As discussed in the New York Times’s Sunday Review on September 22, 2012, the editorial focused on the ethical ramifications that imprisoned a drug offender because of the GPS technology in his cellphone was able to locate the criminal’s position. Now that most people carry on the person a cell, the authorities have the ability to constantly know the location of a large majority of citizens. The ethical discussion now can be framed from a legal perspective. As raised in the editorial, there are stark infractions that these geolocation devices on citizens’ Fourth Amendment and their protection against unreasonable searches. This reach of this issue is not just limited to the United States but affects more democratic state that uphold similar citizens’ rights and freedoms against unreasonable searches.
These geolocation technologies are not only affecting how citizens interact with their state but also how employees interact with their workplaces. As discussed in article by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, “GPS and privacy”, that a growing number of employers are installing geolocation technologies in “company vehicles, equipment and cellphones” (Hein, 2007). Both academia and unions are finding these new powers of employers to be indirect contradiction with civil liberties. This changing relationship between employee and employer because of the integration of GPS technology into popular society is demonstrating a larger ethical discussion on what are appropriate privacy levels. This discussion will only become more prevalent as the technology becomes more popular.
Genetically modified organisms
Genetically modified foods have become quite common in developed countries around the world, boasting greater yields, higher nutritional value, and greater resistance to pests, but there are still many ethical concerns regarding their use. Even commonplace genetically modified crops like corn raise questions of the ecological consequences of unintended cross pollination, potential horizontal gene transfer, and other unforeseen health concerns for humans and animals.
Trademarked organisms like the “Glofish” are a relatively new occurrence. These zebrafish, genetically modified to appear in several fluorescent colours and sold as pets in the United States, could have unforeseen effects on freshwater environments were they ever to breed in the wild.
Providing they receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), another new type of fish may be arriving soon.[when?] The “AquAdvantage salmon”, engineered to reach maturity within roughly 18 months (as opposed to three years in the wild), could help meet growing global demand. There are health and environmental concerns associated with the introduction any new GMO, but more importantly this scenario highlights the potential economic impact a new product may have. The FDA does perform an economic impact analysis to weigh, for example, the consequences these new genetically modified fish may have on the traditional salmon fishing industry against the long term gain of a cheaper, more plentiful source of salmon. These technoethical assessments, which regulatory organizations like the FDA are increasingly faced with worldwide, are vitally important in determining how GMOs—with all of their potential beneficial and harmful effects—will be handled moving forward.
Pregnancy screening technology
For over 40 years, newborn screening has been a triumph of the 20th century public health system. Through this technology, millions of parents are given the opportunity to screen for and test a number of disorders, sparing the death of their children or complications such as mental retardation. However, this technology is growing at a fast pace, disallowing researchers and practitioners from being able to fully understand how to treat diseases and provide families in need with the resources to cope.
A version of pre-natal testing, called tandem mass spectrometry, is a procedure that "measures levels and patterns of numerous metabolites in a single drop of blood, which are then used to identify potential diseases. Using this same drop of blood, tandem mass spectrometry enables the detection of at least four times the number of disorders than was possible with previous technologies." This allows for a cost-effective and fast method of pre-natal testing.
However, critics of tandem mass spectrometry and technologies like it are concerned about the adverse consequences of expanding newborn screen technology and the lack of appropriate research and infrastructure needed to provide optimum medical services to patients. Further concerns include “diagnostic odysseys”, a situation in which the patient aimlessly continues to search for diagnoses where none exists.
Among other consequences, this technology raises the issue of whether individuals other than newborn will benefit from newborn screening practices. A reconceptualization of the purpose of this screening will have far reaching economic, health and legal impact. This discussion is only just beginning and requires informed citizenry to reach legal if not moral consensus on how far we as a society are comfortable with taking this technology.
Citizen journalism is a concept describing citizens who wish to act as a professional journalist or media person by “collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information” According to Jay Rosen, citizen journalists are "the people formerly known as the audience," who "were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all. ... The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable".
The internet has provided society with a modern and accessible public space. Due to the openness of the internet, there are discernible effects on the traditional profession of journalism. Although the concept of citizen journalism is a seasoned one, “the presence of online citizen journalism content in the marketplace may add to the diversity of information that citizens have access to when making decisions related to the betterment of their community or their life”. The emergence of online citizen journalism is fueled by the growing use of social media websites to share information about current events and issues locally, nationally and internationally.
The open and instantaneous nature of the internet affects the criteria of information quality on the web. A journalistic code of ethics is not instilled for those who are practicing citizen journalism. Journalists, whether professional or citizen, have needed to adapt to new priorities of current audiences: accessibility, quantity of information, quick delivery and aesthetic appeal. Thus, technology has affected the ethical code of the profession of journalism with the popular free and instant sharing qualities of the internet. Professional journalists have had to adapt to these new practices to ensure that truthful and quality reporting is being distributed. The concept can be seen as a great advancement in how society communicates freely and openly or can be seen as contributing to the decay of traditional journalistic practices and codes of ethics.
Other issues to consider:
- Privacy concerns: location services on cell devices which tell all users where a person is should they decide to turn on this feature, social media, online banking, new capabilities of cellular devices, Wi-fi, etc.
- New music technology: People see more electronic music today with the new technology able to create it, as well as more advanced recording technology
Despite the amassing body of scholarly work related to technoethics beginning in the 1970s, only recently has it become institutionalized and recognized as an important interdisciplinary research area and field of study. In 1998, the Epson Foundation founded the Instituto de Tecnoética in Spain under the direction of Josep Esquirol. This institute has actively promoted technoethical scholarship through awards, conferences, and publications. This helped encourage scholarly work for a largely European audience. The major driver for the emergence of technoethics can be attributed to the publication of major reference works available in English and circulated globally. The "Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics" included a section on technoethics which helped bring it into mainstream philosophy. This helped to raise further interest leading to the publication of the first reference volume in the English language dedicated to the emerging field of Technoethics. The two volume Handbook of Research on Technoethics explores the complex connections between ethics and the rise of new technologies (e.g., life-preserving technologies, stem cell research, cloning technologies, new forms of surveillance and anonymity, computer networks, Internet advancement, etc.) This recent major collection provides the first comprehensive examination of technoethics and its various branches from over 50 scholars around the globe. The emergence of technoethics can be juxtaposed with a number of other innovative interdisciplinary areas of scholarship which have surfaced in recent years such as technoscience and technocriticism.
With all the developments we’ve had in technology it has created a lot advancement for the music industry both positive and negative. A main concern is piracy and illegal downloading; with all that is available through the internet a lot of music (TV shows and movies as well) have become easily accessible to download and upload for free. This does create new challenges for artist, producers, and copyright laws. The advances it has positively made for the industry is a whole new genre of music. Computers are being used to create electronic music, as well as synthesizers (computerized/electronic piano). This type of music is becoming rapidly more common and listened to. These advances have allowed the industry to try new things and make new explorations.
The future of technoethics is a promising, yet evolving field. The studies of e-technology in workplace environments are an evolving trend in technoethics. With the constant evolution of technology, and innovations coming out daily, technoethics is looking to be a rather promising guiding framework for the ethical assessments of new technologies. Some of the questions regarding technoethics and the workplace environment that have yet to be examined and treated are listed below:
- Are organizational counter measures not necessary because it invades employee privacy?
- Are surveillance cameras and computer monitoring devices invasive methods that can have ethical repercussions?
- Should organizations have the right and power to impose consequences?
UNESCO - specialized intergovernmental agency of the united nations, focusing on promotion of education, culture social and natural sciences and communication and information In the future the use of principles as expressed in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (2005) will also be analyzed to broaden the description of bioethical reasoning (Adell & Luppicini, 2009).
Areas of technoethical inquiry
Biotech ethics concerned with ethical dilemmas surrounding the use of biotechnologies in fields including medical research, health care, and industrial applications. Topics such as cloning ethics, e-health ethics, telemedicine ethics, genetics ethics, neuroethics, and sport & nutrition ethics fall into this category; examples of specific issues include the debates surrounding euthanasia and reproductive rights.
Technoethics and cognition
This area of technoethical inquiry is concerned with technology's relation to the human mind, artificial agents, and society. Topics of study that would fit into this category would be artificial morality and moral agents, technoethical systems and techno-addiction.
- An artificial agent describes any type of technology that is created to act as an agent, either of its own power or on behalf of another agent. An artificial agent may try to advance its own goals or those of another agent. 
Technoethics and society
This field is concerned with the uses of technology to ethically regulate aspects of a society. For example: digital property ethics, social theory, law, science, organizational ethics and global ethics.
Technoethics has concerned itself with society as a general group and made no distinctions between the genders, but considers technological effects and influences on each gender individually. This is an important consideration as some technologies are created for use by a specific gender, including birth control, abortion, fertility treatments, and Viagra. Feminists have had a significant influence on the prominence and development of reproductive technologies. Technoethical inquiry must examine these technologies' effects on the intended gender while also considering their influence on the other gender. Another dimension of technofeminism concerns female involvement in technological development: women's participation in the field of technology has broadened society's understanding of how technology affects the female experience in society.
Information and communication technoethics
Information and communication technoethics is “concerned with ethical issues and responsibilities arising when dealing with information and communication technology in the realm of communication.” This field is related to internet ethics, rational and ethical decision making models, and information ethics. A major area of interest is the convergence of technologies: as technologies become more interdependent and provide people with multiple ways of accessing the same information, they transform society and create new ethical dilemmas. This is particularly evident in the realms of the internet. In recent years, users have had the unprecedented position of power in creating and disseminating news and other information globally via social networking; the concept of “citizen journalism” primarily relates to this. With developments in the media, has led to open media ethics as Ward writes, leading to citizen journalism.
In cases such as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami or the 2011 Arab Spring movements, citizen journalists were seen to have been significant sources of facts and information in relation to the events. These were re-broadcast by news outlets, and more importantly, re-circulated by and to other internet users. As Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin state in their book Remediation: Understanding New Media (1999): “The liveness of the Web is a refashioned version of the liveness of broadcast television” However, it is commonly political events (such as ‘Occupy’ movements or the Iran Elections of 2009) that tend to raise ethical questions and concerns. In the latter example, there had been efforts made by the Iranian government in censoring and prohibiting the spread of internal happenings to the outside by its citizen journalists. This occurrence questioned the importance of the spread of crucial information regarding the issue, and the source from which it came from (citizen journalists, government authorities, etc.). This goes to prove how the internet “enables new forms of human action and expression [but] at the same time it disables [it]” Information and Communication Technoethics also identifies ways to develop ethical frameworks of research structures in order to capture the essence of new technologies.
Educational and professional technoethics
Technoethical inquiry in the field of education examines how technology impacts the roles and values of education in society. This field considers changes in student values and behavior related to technology, including access to inappropriate material in schools, online plagiarism using material copied directly from the internet, or purchasing papers from online resources and passing them off as the student's own work. Educational technoethics also examines the digital divide that exists between educational institutions in developed and developing countries or between unequally-funded institutions within the same country: for instance, some schools offer students access to online material, while others do not. Professional technoethics focuses on the issue of ethical responsibility for those who work with technology within a professional setting, including engineers, medical professionals, and so on.
Environmental and engineering technoethics
Environmental technoethics originate from the 1960s and 1970s' interest in environment and nature. The field focuses on the human use of technologies that may impact the environment; areas of concern include transport, mining, and sanitation. Engineering technoethics emerged in the late 19th century. As the Industrial Revolution triggered a demand for expertise in engineering and a need to improve engineering standards, societies began to develop codes of professional ethics and associations to enforce these codes. Ethical inquiry into engineering examines the “responsibilities of engineers combining insights from both philosophy and the social sciences.”
Technoethical assessment and design
A technoethical assessment (TEA) is an interdisciplinary, systems-based approach to assessing ethical dilemmas related to technology. TEAs aim to guide actions related to technology in an ethical direction by advancing knowledge of technologies and their effects; successful TEAs thus produce a shared understanding of knowledge, values, priorities, and other ethical aspects associated with technology. TEAs involve five key steps:
- Evaluate the intended ends and possible side effects of the technology in order to discern its overall value (interest).
- Compare the means and intended ends in terms of technical and non-technical (moral and social) aspects.
- Reject those actions where the output (overall value) does not balance the input in terms of efficiency and fairness.
- Consider perspectives from all stakeholder groups.
- Examine technological relations at a variety of levels (e.g. biological, physical, psychological, social, and environmental).
Technoethical design (TED) refers to the process of designing technologies in an ethical manner, involving stakeholders in participatory design efforts, revealing hidden or tacit technological relations, and investigating what technologies make possible and how people will use them. TED involves the following four steps:
- Ensure that the components and relations within the technological system are explicitly understood by those in the design context.
- Perform a TEA to identify relevant technical knowledge.
- Optimize the technological system in order to meet stakeholders' and affected individuals' needs and interests.
- Consult with representatives of stakeholder and affected groups in order to establish consensus on key design issues.
Both TEA and TED rely on systems theory, a perspective that conceptualizes society in terms of events and occurrences resulting from investigating system operations. Systems theory assumes that complex ideas can be studied as systems with common designs and properties which can be further explained using systems methodology. The field of technoethics regards technologies as self-producing systems that draw upon external resources and maintain themselves through knowledge creation; these systems, of which humans are a part, are constantly in flux as relations between technology, nature, and society change. TEA attempts to elicit the knowledge, goals, inputs, and outputs that comprise technological systems. Similarly, TED enables designers to recognize technology's complexity and power, to include facts and values in their designs, and to contextualize technology in terms of what it makes possible and what makes it possible.
Recent advances in technology and their ability to transmit vast amounts of information in a short amount of time has changed the way information is being shared amongst co-workers and managers throughout organizations across the globe. Starting in the 1980s with information and communications technologies (ICTs), organizations have seen an increase in the amount of technology that they rely on to communicate within and outside of the workplace. However, these implementations of technology in the workplace create various ethical concerns and in turn a need for further analysis of technology in organizations. As a result of this growing trend, a subsection of technoethics known as organizational technoethics has emerged to address these issues.
Key scholarly contributions
Key scholarly contributions linking ethics, technology, and society can be found in a number of seminal works:
- The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of Ethics for the Technological Age (Jonas, 1979)
- On Technology, Medicine and Ethics (Jonas, 1985)
- The Real World of Technology (Franklin, 1990)
- Thinking Ethics in Technology: Hennebach Lectures and Papers, 1995-1996 (Mitcham, 1997)
- Technology and the Good Life (Higgs, Light & Strong, 2000)
- Readings in the Philosophy of Technology (Kaplin, 2004)
- Ethics and technology: Ethical issues in an age of information and communication technology (Tavani, 2004)
This resulting scholarly attention to ethical issues arising from technological transformations of work and life has helped given rise to a number of key areas (or branches) of technoethical inquiry under various research programs (i.e., computer ethics, engineering ethics, environmental technoethics, biotech ethics, Nanoethics, educational technoethics, information and communication ethics, media ethics, and Internet ethics).
- Luppicini, R. (2010). Technoethics and the evolving knowledge society. Hershey: Idea Group Publishing.
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