Reducing the many hand problem by adding an extra hand


Looking at the hypothetical example in which four persons were involved in the development of new fire-resistant material, discussed in the Responsible Innovation course. It becomes clear that none of them are responsible when looking at the four conditions of responsibility.


In my opinion this problem could have been prevented in many ways. But first I will clarify the actors involved in this example a bit more.

Person A: The scientist, and in this case doing research on a new material.

Person B: The designers, in this case the “tailor”, fitting new products in their workfield.

Person C: The boss, the director of the business who also hired person B

Person D: The cleaner, works in the business and is tasked with cleaning up.


If we look at the example more closely, it is easy to say that the scientist should have tested its new material on possible reactions with other materials or surroundings. The designers should not have used products without knowing the specifics of the new material. The boss should be more involved in implementing new technology. And the cleaner should be aware of the new products possible negative effects and should ask for more information when working with an unknown product.


In my opinion none of these solutions will have a bigger impact on the current situation. Therefore I would like to add a fifth person called person E: the overseer, a broad learned colleague who focuses on the implementation of new products in their business.


When a company decides to implement a new product the overseer goes into the depth of this product and asks himself in which way the product will be used within the business and with which it comes into contact. When this problem occurs again, but now with the overseer present, and the overseer being accountable for the research of the product within their company, someone can be found responsible for possible collateral damage.


If a problem occurs with a new product one has to look at the four conditions of responsibility:

The freedom condition: The overseer does his job freely and is not under external pressure

The knowledge condition: As it is the job of the overseer to know about the product he has to have the knowledge of any possible negative outcomes.

The causal connection: When the overseer approves a product to be implemented in a business there is a causal connection between the act of approving the product and overseeing possible negative outcomes.

The transgression of a norm: If the overseer approves a product and thereby transgressing, for example, safety norm the overseer is to be held accountable.


The overseer has a big responsibility and in my opinion this position should not be practiced alone.

I would advise a council of overseers, this is because one overseer does not have the knowledge of the scientist who does the research on a new product and does not have the man power to inspect the product thoroughly on his own. Also, I find that putting so much responsibility on one person is not ethical responsible.