Objective: to develop and apply the techno-ethical scenario approach to nanotechnologies in food and medicine Description: Nanotechnology raises many ethical concerns. Some of these are relatively clear-cut, as in the case of toxicity risks. In these cases, the implied values are relatively non-controversial, the chance and the possible harm can be expressed in quantitative terms, and the causal link between technology and consequence is relatively direct and unequivocal. However, nanotechnology is also bound to have other consequences that are more ambiguous, qualitative and mediated, affecting established practices, identities, morals, conceptions of the good life and worldviews, thus giving rise to societal controversies about issues of a less tangible kind. These controversies are the sites where techno-moral learning can occur. The outcomes of these deliberations should inform research and design decisions, and/or the way we prepare society (e.g. by formulating legal conditions or by developing practical skills) to ensure a successful societal embedding of the new technologies. These processes of techno-moral learning are a crucial condition for responsible innovation, as they provide an avenue for societal concerns to impact technology development, thus enhancing democratic legitimacy of the final technologies.
Because nanotechnology is to a large extent an emerging or future technology, public deliberation on nano-enabled technologies requires stimulating the imagination of citizens through ‘dramatic rehearsals’ (Dewey) of the possible consequences of different emerging nanotechnologies. It is important that these rehearsals not only regard known health, safety or environmental risks, but also ‘soft impacts’ like the manifold ways new technologies affect and change the way we perceive and act in the world.
prof. dr. Tsjalling Swierstra (Maastricht University)
dr. Ike Kamphof (Maastricht University)
The project ‘Imagining Techno-Moral Change’ runs from 2011-2016