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Ethics for the Digital Age: Where Are the Moral Specs?

Value Sensitive Design and Responsible Innovation

Abstract

In the middle of the twentieth century scholars in the social sciences and humanities have reflected on how the telegraph, the telephone and TV have shaped our societies (A good example is the work of Ithiel de Sola Pool in the mid twentieth century. See for example Politics in Wired Nations, Selected Writings, Transaction Publishers, London/New York.). In the last 30 years, researchers in a variety of disciplines such as technology assessment, computer ethics, information and library science, science and technology studies and cultural and media studies have conducted research into the way new media, computers and mobile phones have turned a wired society into a full-fledged digital society. In the last 10 years we have entered a new phase of the digital shaping of society. We are trying to come to grips with artificial intelligence, big data, social media, smart phones, robotics, the Internet of Things, apps and bots, self-driving cars, deep learning and brain interfaces. New digital technologies have now given rise to a hyper-connected society. IT is not only getting in between people, but it is also getting under our skin and into our heads—often literally. Our standard ways of keeping tabs on technology by means of information technology assessment, tech policy and regulation, soft law, ethical codes for IT professionals, ethical review boards (ERBs) for computer science research, standards and software maturity models and combinations thereof, are no longer sufficient to lead us to a responsible digital future. Our attempts to shape our technologies are often too late and too slow (e.g. by means of black letter law) or too little or too weak (e.g. codes of conduct). The field of privacy and data protection is an example of both. Data protection lawyers are constantly trying to catch up with the latest in big data analysis, the Internet of things, deep learning and sensor and cloud technology. On any given day, we often find ourselves trying to regulate the technology of tomorrow with legal regimes of yesterday. This gives rise to the question ‘How should we make our ethics bear upon high impact and dynamical digital phenomena?’

Keywords

  • Sensitive Design
  • Moral Consideration
  • Responsible Innovation
  • Computer Ethic
  • Choice Architecture

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Correspondence to Jeroen van den Hoven .

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van den Hoven, J. (2017). Ethics for the Digital Age: Where Are the Moral Specs?. In: Werthner, H., van Harmelen, F. (eds) Informatics in the Future. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-55735-9_6

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