Regular Article

The European Physical Journal Special Topics

, Volume 214, Issue 1, pp 153-181

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

FuturICT — The road towards ethical ICT

  • J. van den HovenAffiliated withPhilosophy Section, Delft University of Technology Email author 
  • , D. HelbingAffiliated withChair of Sociology, in particular of Modeling and Simulation, ETH Zurich
  • , D. PedreschiAffiliated withDipartimento di Informatica, Universita di Pisa
  • , J. Domingo-FerrerAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Engineering and Maths, Universitat Rovira i Virgili
  • , F. GianottiAffiliated withDipartimento di Informatica, Universita di Pisa
  • , M. ChristenAffiliated withInstitute of Biomedical Ethics, University of ZurichPsychology Department, University of Notre Dame


The pervasive use of information and communication technology (ICT) in modern societies enables countless opportunities for individuals, institutions, businesses and scientists, but also raises difficult ethical and social problems. In particular, ICT helped to make societies more complex and thus harder to understand, which impedes social and political interventions to avoid harm and to increase the common good. To overcome this obstacle, the large-scale EU flagship proposal FuturICT intends to create a platform for accessing global human knowledge as a public good and instruments to increase our understanding of the information society by making use of ICT-based research. In this contribution, we outline the ethical justification for such an endeavor. We argue that the ethical issues raised by FuturICT research projects overlap substantially with many of the known ethical problems emerging from ICT use in general. By referring to the notion of Value Sensitive Design, we show for the example of privacy how this core value of responsible ICT can be protected in pursuing research in the framework of FuturICT. In addition, we discuss further ethical issues and outline the institutional design of FuturICT allowing to address them.

Graphical abstract