RI 2016: Week 2

Moral dillema's - Emotions - Institutions and Values

Welcome to the Week 2 

Welcome to the Week 2 of the Responsible Innovation course. What can you expect this week? Well, this week we will focus on moral overload,  emotions (which express our values) and institutions and values:

  • How should we deal with conflicting demands and emotions when it comes to new technology?
  • And what role do institutional values play in this process?  


Overview for this week:

We will start with the dilemma of Moral Overload (Section 2.1

Engineers are often confronted with moral dilemmas in their design work because they have to deal with conflicting (value) requirements. They are supposed to accommodate for example both safety and efficiency, security and privacy, accountability and confidentiality. So they have to decide which values are more important.

In other words, they have to deal with ‘Moral Overload’. In the web lecture, Prof. Jeroen will explain that some moral dilemmas may have engineering solutions and that certain types of moral dilemmas can be tackled by means of technical innovation. But we must be aware of these options. What does this mean for the way we approach such problems?

In Section 2.2, we will look at emotions and technological innovations.

We will argue that - maybe counter-intuitively - emotions should be taken seriously in debates about risky technologies. This will lead to a more balanced debate in which all parties are taken seriously, which increases the chances to be willing to listen to each other and give-and-take. This is needed in order to come to well-grounded policies on how to deal with risky technologies. 

Section 2.3 concerns a case study: responsible robots. We will discuss ethical issues and values like privacy and dignity of care robots.

Then we look at institutions and values.

Values are not only present in technology - as we have seen in Week 1 - but also in institutions. Therefore it makes sense to extend the scope beyond technology and include institutions as well when it comes down to values . We will first discuss this from a more general perspective (Section 2.4).

Then we will have a closer look at the definition of institutions and the institutional context in which a technology is being developed and implemented (Section 2.5). We will highlight that there are four layers or categories of institutions.  Depending on the layer, the values and rules become easier or more difficult to change. In this section, we will use offshore wind energy and the liberalization of the energy market as running examples.