Description of This Research Line
Under the influence of digital technologies, the basic structure of political and social orders is challenged, power relationships are changing, and the envisaged transformation towards sustainable societies calls for unprecedented global regulatory measures. These changes are fundamentally reshaping the social fabric of the world on which our moral principles and political commitments rest and force us to reconsider the content and the scope of basic moral convictions and raise questions of human control over social and political processes.
In this research line The Future of a Fair and Free Society we try to map how the changes in social relations, social structures, social institutions, and democratic practices, brought about by SDTs affect the basic concepts of social and political philosophy. We work on the following clusters of questions:
- How can we realize basic normative ideas – such as democratic control, social justice, individual rights, and solidarity – under the conditions created by SDTs? How can we optimally use new opportunities offered by SDTs?
- To what extent are those normative concepts and the normative frameworks used in ethics, social, and political philosophy adequate to analyze the effects of SDTs, including their side effects? And if they are not, how should we adjust them?
- How can we regulate SDTs and how should we empower our social and political institutions to enable political and societal decision-making that leads to morally justified innovations?
Social and ethical dimensions of content generation technologies [1/9/2023-1/9/2027]
PhD candidate: Kaush Kalidindi (email@example.com)
Daily supervisor: Dr. Patrik Hummel (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Emily Sullivan (email@example.com)
Supervisor: Dr. Philip Nickel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Technologies have historically changed how we conceptualized the interlocking concepts of originality and creativity and of authorship and ownership. For example, in the oral tradition it was the person telling the story that mattered, not so much the story itself. With the invention of the printing press, stories became artifacts that are trademarked, owned, and sold. Such concepts were again disrupted by technologies like genetically modified food and practices like music sampling and peer-to-peer network sharing.
Today content generation technologies (CGT) are further upending concepts of originality - creativity and authorship - ownership. AI driven GPT-3 can create text and formulate arguments. Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), such as DALL-E 2, can produce realistic artworks in the style of particular artists. Next to conceptual disruptions, CGT also raise many ethical issues surrounding ownership of intellectual property, trustworthiness and overreliance, and reproduction of human biases in GPT-3 generated texts.
This PhD project takes a critical look at the way CGTs affect the interrelated concepts of originality and creativity on the one hand, and authorship and ownership on the other, and explore the ethical implications of CGT and AI-supported acts of creativity and authorship.
Art for Climate Solidarity [2022-2025]
Post-doc: Dr. Aafke Fraaije (email@example.com)
Daily supervisor: Prof. Dr. Sabine Roeser (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Co-supervisor: Dr. Julia Hermann (email@example.com)
This project will study how artworks can contribute to fostering empathy, care, and solidarity in times of climate crisis.
The idea to be investigated in this postdoc-project is how artworks can contribute to emotional-moral deliberation on climate change, by invoking compassion, sympathy and care, by making crucial contributions to solidarity, and by making the intangible but urgent challenges of climate change more concrete.
Towards a Just Implementation of Carbon Dioxide Removal: A Capabilities Approach [2021-2025]
PhD candidate: Elisa Paiusco (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daily supervisor: Dr. Dominic Lenzi (email@example.com)
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Philip Brey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Responding to climate change will very likely require a large-scale effort to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through carbon dioxide removal techniques (CDR). Some of these technologies remain relatively uncontroversial, but many generate difficult tradeoffs or significant ethical concerns. And while many of these concerns have been the subject of rigorous study, questions of intergenerational justice in the context of carbon removal are relatively under-theorized.
By focusing on the capabilities of present and future generations, this project proposes to provide ethical insight into mitigation discussions involving the deployment of CDR in the context of mitigation pathways compatible with sustainable development. This project aims to develop a unique, action-guiding account of intergenerational justice that can be applied to the specific intergenerational issues and assumptions of CDR.
In keeping with the goals of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies program, this project will also explore the extent to which the specific issues raised by intergenerational justice in climate policy will lead us to revise or create new theoretical understandings of core normative concepts and commitments. To what extent to does adopting an intergenerational perspective require a revision of important distinctions or theories in political philosophy? Similarly, the project will also explore the extent to which our ethical and political concepts may need to be revised in to make them more readily translatable into public policy.
Confucianism and Ethics of Technology [2021-2025]
PhD candidate: Joseph St. Maria (email@example.com)
Daily supervisor: Dr. Elena Ziliotti (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Sabine Roeser (email@example.com)
This PhD will use Confucian philosophy as a conceptual resource in answering how people can flourish in a world that is being increasingly proliferated by digital technologies. It will use a Confucian-inspired framework for human flourishing drawn, from the Great Learning, (Da Xue 大學) to organize its inquiry. This framework identifies four spheres of relations that constitute a good or flourishing life. These are the spheres of the “self,” the “interpersonal,” the “political,” and the “world.” For each of these spheres, a digital technology shall be investigated. Specifically, an ethical issue about that technology will be explored. The dissertation shall then assess the issue through a Confucian lens and propose practical recommendations, with the goal of addressing the issue in a way that can improve the digital good life or well-being.
Electoral Technologies and democracy in global perspective [2021-2025]
PhD candidate: Arthur Gwagwa (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daily supervisor: Dr. Dorothea Gädeke (email@example.com)
Co-supervisor: Prof. Dr. Joel Anderson
Genuine democracy presupposes well-founded trust in the electoral process, regarding electoral procedures and the formation of electoral choice. It requires securing the secrecy as well as the transparency of the vote. Traditionally, the democratic credentials of elections are based on physical arrangements regarding electoral procedures (printed ballots, isolated voting booths) and the formation of electoral choice (via public information and journalism).
However, these arrangements (and their normative legitimation) are being disrupted by the spread of new electoral technologies, especially in new democracies of the Global South. Paper-based election systems have increasingly been supplanted by electronic election systems (e.g. biometric voter identification, ballot scanners, internet voting). And as political campaigns have become increasingly complex, datafied, and sophisticated, new technological coping strategies have emerged in response (e.g. voting advice applications, fake-news detectors, and filtered or bubble-bursting news feeds).
Despite potential gains in efficiency, reliability, and convenience, such technologies raise concerns about the inclusivity, reliability, manipulability, and verifiability of these electoral technologies. In light of these concerns, the project seeks to investigate to what extent new electoral technologies necessitate rethinking normative assumptions about the legitimate basis for confidence in electoral outcomes and trust in democratic institutions, particularly in light of two (potentially) disruptive effects of these technologies. On the one hand, they challenge received normative criteria for democratic credibility by introducing new options and difficulties regarding how to realize (1) secrecy/anonymity, (2) transparency/accountability, and (3) the appropriate balance between (1) and (2). On the other hand, they are being implemented in contexts of power and domination, both domestically and transnationally, that may be transformed or further entrenched as a consequence of their implementation. This, in turn, requires rethinking related concepts social unity, political agency, self-determination, freedom as non-domination, capabilities. Particular emphasis will be placed on the context of power in which such technologies are promoted in the Global South.
Will democracy survive social media? [2020-2024]
PhD candidate: Roxanne van der Puil (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daily supervisor: Prof. Dr. Lambèr Royakkers (email@example.com)
Co-supervisors: Dr. Andreas Spahn (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Uwe Matzat (email@example.com)
Social media has become an essential space of public and semi-public discourse, and has the potential for a second wave of digital democracy by increasing access to information and greatly lowering the barrier of participation in public debates. The last few years, however, have also shown risks that are present in social media. Fake news, disinformation, manipulation and disguised propaganda in social media have contributed to a post-truth era in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
In this project we will investigate the complex picture of the influence of social media upon democratic politics, and whether the claim that democratic practices is linked to truth telling, rationality, consensus and reason is still tenable due to social media. We do so by empirically and conceptually investigating the rise of post-truth and critically examining the role of feelings in online discourse.
The objective of this project is to develop a normative and empirical model of democracy theory that takes into account the potential of social media to facilitate more participative democracy while acknowledge its disruptive value of challenging traditional democratic norms and practices.
In: de Paz Santana, Juan Francisco; de la Iglesia, Daniel Hernández (Ed.): New Trends in Disruptive Technologies, Tech Ethics and Artificial Intelligence, vol. 1410, pp. 133-144, Springer Cham, 1, 2021, ISBN: 978-3-030-87686-9.
In: Artificial Intelligence, vol. 297, no. 103498, 2021.
Wellbeing, place and technology Journal Article
In: Wellbeing, Space and Society, vol. 1, pp. 100013, 2020, ISSN: 2666-5581.
Emotions and Digital Well-Being. The Rationalistic Bias of Social Media Design in Online Deliberations. Book Chapter
In: In C. Burr, & L. Floridi (Eds.), Ethics of Digital Well-Being (pp. 139-150). Cham: Springer. , 2020.
Researchers involved in the ESDIT program are cordially invited to register!
The fPET2023 conference at Delft University of Technology will bring together engineers and philosophers to address the challenges of engineering in a changing world. fPET 2023 will provide the opportunity to meet like-minded researchers and present and discuss research on the intersection of engineering and philosophy, addressing the broad theme of technology and engineering in a changing world.
Related News & Media
“The Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies; An Introduction” – New Open Access Book
— VACANCY CLOSED — PhD position in philosophy and ethics of technology
Research Line Leaders
Research Line Coordinator(s)
|Prof. dr. Thomas Bäck|
|Dr. Maren Behrensen|
|Prof. dr. Neelke Doorn|
|Dr. Juan M Durán|
|Dr. Aafke Fraaije|
|Dr. Dorothea Gädeke|
|Dr. Adam Henschke|
|Dr. Patrik Hummel|
|Dr. Dominic Lenzi|
|Dr. Lavinia Marin|
|Dr. Uwe Matzat|
|Ing. Patricia Reyes Benavides|
|Prof. dr. Ingrid Robeyns|
|Prof. dr. Sabine Roeser|
|Prof. Lambèr Royakkers|
|Dr. Mirko Tobias Schäfer|
|Dr. Andreas Spahn|
|Joseph Sta. Maria|
|Dr. Emily Sullivan|
|Prof. dr. Jeroen van den Hoven|
|Roxanne van der Puil|
|Prof. dr. Marcel Verweij|
|Dr. Elena Ziliotti|