One of the other winners this year was prof. Lawrence Lessig of the Stanford Law School (category: law). Previous winners in the category ethics are Peter Singer (Princeton University, known for his work on animal rights) and Carl Mitcham (Colorado School of Mines, known for his work in the ethics and philosopy of technology). Previous winners of a World Technology Award in other categories include amongst others former America vice-president Al Gore, economist and banker Muhammed Yunus (known from the micro credits) and biologist Craig Venter (known for the Human Genome Project).
During his career professor Van den Hoven has actively and successfully advocated a reorientation in ethics. According to Van den Hoven ethics should concern itself much more with the large challenges of our time, in which new technologies – in the areas of health, energy, ICT, bio-nano, robotics, etc. – play a central role. A core concept in his work is ‘value sensitive design’. He argues for a close collaboration between ethicists and engineers and taking moral values such as privacy and autonomy into account in an early stage of designing new technologies. In the past few years Van den Hoven was the driving force between the new, multidisciplinary grant program ‘Responsible Innovation’ of NWO, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.
The awards have been granted annually since 2000 by the World Technology Network (WTN). This is an exclusive network of about a 1000 of the most innovative people active in the area of science and technology, from more than 60 countries. The members of the network nominate people for an award in one of the categories and choose a winner. The prize thus means acknowledgement of his work by prominent and influential scientists, entrepreneurs, journalists and policy makers. Nominees and winners subsequently become members of the WTN themselves.