4TU > 4TU.Ethics bi-annual conference on Ethics and Technology

4TU.Ethics bi-annual conference on Ethics and Technology

14 -15 October 2021, 4TU.Ethics / Wageningen University, The Netherlands


Novel technologies enable us to manipulate and shape phenomena that have long been taken to be given and natural. At the same time, our control of nature is limited, as the covid-19 pandemic and climate change show. Moreover, technologies themselves are also increasingly exerting influence on us – artificial intelligence, robotics, health surveillance. The boundaries between technological artefacts and living entities are becoming less and less clear, and this is raising ethical and political debate at all societal levels, from local to global. IT’S ALIVE! wants engage with the conceptual, ethical, and political issues associated with the way in which humanity can manipulate living systems and nature and how technologies are changing us as well. A preliminary conference schedule can be found here.

The conference has three Keynote Speakers:

Bernice Bovenkerk, Associate Professor in the Social Sciences Group, subdepartment of Communication, Philosophy and Technology of Wageningen University.

Bernice specialises in environmental philosophy and animal ethics, including ethical analysis of animal biotechnology. In her keynote, she explores how biotechnology applications like gene drives or cloning disrupt our basic concepts and worldviews. Her upcoming book Animals in Our Midst: The Challenges of Co-existing with Animals in the Anthropocene will be published open-access by Springer.


Alberto Giubilini, Senior Research Fellow, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford.

Alberto will give a keynote lecture on the ethics of the Covid19 vaccination. His book The Ethics of Vaccination is published open access in the Palgrave Studies in Ethics and Public Policy series in 2019.


Nicole Vincent, Senior Lecturer, Transdisciplinary School, University of Technology Sydney.

Nicole is a philosopher and has worked in such diverse fields as philosophy of technology, gender studies, neuroethics, law, and complex systems theory. Between 2007 and 2016 she was affiliated with Delft University of Technology, so Nicole is well known within the 4TU.Ethics community.

In her talk, Nicole will reflect on the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic. She will argue that although Covid-19 is indeed a medical condition, its conditions or causal are anything but just medical. The causal factors through which the Covid-19 medical condition arose, which sustain it, and which can either propagate or suppress it, are so much more diverse than the isolated biological factor (the SARS-CoV-2 virus) that has drawn all of the attention of the international scientific community. Natural, technological, and societal factors are intricately intertwined in this pandemic, and on Nicole’s account to adequately tackle this- and future pandemics, those other factors and the complex non-linear causal interactions between them must be acknowledged, studied, understood, and appropriately addressed. Instead of leaning on the medical profession until its own breaking point, and waiting around for vaccines and treatments that will allow society to return to normal – the very same way of life and organisation of society which David Morens and Antony Fauci argue are responsible for why we got into the Covid-19 pandemic in the first place – Nicole shall argue that we need a transdisciplinary complex systems approach not unlike the One Health initiative of the WHO.



Setup of the Conference in Covid-19 times

We are looking forward to meet our colleagues in person but realise that many will be reluctant or unable to travel to Wageningen. Therefore, we opt for a combination of in-person and online activities.

On 14 October we will host a safe in-person meeting in Ede/Wageningen, The Netherlands, with possibilities for remote online participation. We hope to make it a real social event onsite – of course, taking all Covid-19 measures seriously. To participate in person, proof of vaccination will be required.

On 15 October all sessions will be online only. We will see to it that also online participation will be stimulating, engaging and fun.


The conference programme will consist of three types of contributions:

  • Symposia A symposium is a 75 minutes session around one theme, with multiple short presentations and a general discussion.
  • Panel discussions A panel discussion is a 75 minutes session in which two separate discussion papers are discussed in depth. The papers to be discussed will be available to the audience to read in advance, and the authors are committed to submit this paper (4000 words maximum) by 15th September at the latest. The author does not present their paper, and instead has ample opportunity to respond to a critique of a designated commentator.
  • Poster presentations Posters will be publicly available online during the conference. Authors will be given timeslots in which they give a short online presentation (5 minutes) next to their poster after which the audience can ask questions.

The following contributions have been accepted for the conference (clicking on the title takes you to the abstract text).





Panel discussions


Poster presentations





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