Promises and expectations concerning new and emerging science and technologies (NEST) abound in contemporary societies. How should we anticipate and evaluate these new and emerging sciences and technologies and the impacts they may have on society? In this course we start by identifying the specific challenges emerging technologies pose to their ethical and societal evaluation. Since NEST are not fully developed yet, the object of evaluation is rather elusive and replete with uncertainties. Taking a pragmatist approach to the ethical and societal evaluation of NEST, the course subsequently first investigates the informal, (‘de facto’) processes of anticipation and evaluation of NEST taking place in society, analysing their character, strengths and weaknesses. We then ask how more systematic (‘dedicated’) methods to anticipate and/or evaluate NEST (developed in technology assessment, ethics and STS more generally) could contribute to the quality of societal anticipation and evaluation of NEST. To what extent can such methods help to make innovation processes more reflective of societal and moral value and responsible (as recent calls for ‘Responsible Research & Innovation’ seem to suggest)? What do these methods assume about what ‘good anticipation and evaluation’ of NEST entails, and how valid are these assumptions? What is the role and added value of ethical and Technology Assessment -expertise? The course ends with two sessions dedicated to topical subjects (capita selecta) in the philosophical, ethical and social science literature on anticipation and evaluation of NEST, which may vary from year to year.
The course centres around a group project that asks students to develop a proposal for how to anticipate and evaluate a specific emerging technology. To this end, they have to select a relevant example of NEST; identify, analyse and assess the plausibility of the promises and expectations surrounding it; map, analyse and evaluate the quality of existing ethical and societal debates, and ultimately argue which dedicated methods could improve the societal and ethical anticipation and evaluation of this specific technology. In this way students practice research, analytic, evaluative, collaborative and communicative skills that are key to any researcher, working in academic or other settings, and learn to organize and conduct a comparatively large project, thereby preparing them for writing a master thesis.
Aim / objective
This course connects to the final qualification K2, K3, K4, K6, S3-S10 of the PSTS programme, according to the following learning objectives.
At the end of the course the student is able to
- to plan, coordinate and conduct a cooperative research project (contributing to S1, S2, S3, S5 of the PSTS final qualifications)
- analyze the social dynamics of expectations and actual patterns of moral argumentation concerning new and emerging science and technologies in society (contributing to S4 and S7 of the PSTS final qualifications)
- apply, critically compare and evaluate different methods to improve the quality of anticipation and ethical and societal evaluation of new and emerging science and technologies (contributing to S6, S7 and S9 of the PSTS final qualifications)
- to articulate and defend one’s own position with regard to methods for anticipation and ethical and societal evaluation of new and emerging science and technologies (contributing to S4 and S6 of the PSTS final qualifications)
- communicate research and proposals to colleagues, as well as professionals in relevant domains (contributing to S8 and S10 of the PSTS final qualifications)
- to reflect on the conceptual, sociocultural and normative assumptions guiding current practices and proposals to anticipate and evaluate new and emerging science and technologies from an ethical and social perspective (contributing to S6 of the PSTS final qualifications)
Group project – 50% of course grade:
The group project results in a group presentation in week 8 and a group report in week 10. The presentations will be assessed in a formative manner only, with criteria also used for the report. The group report will be assessed with one group grade, with giving students the option to redistribute the grade on the basis of a peer assessment of individual contributions.
Two individual written assignments – 50 % of course grade
During the course, students will have to hand in two assignments (of 1500-2000 words each) in which they reflect on part of the readings. The first assignment will focus on reviewing the pros and cons of different methods to anticipate and evaluate NEST; the second one will focus on a critical analysis of the assumptions guiding such methods.
Each component of the final grade has to be graded sufficient or more (i.e. 5.5 or more).
Note: 4TU students will not take part in the group project. Instead, they will be assigned additional reading materials and they have to write a final paper. The grade for this final paper substitutes the group project grade in the calculation of the course grade. The 4TU students will receive additional tutoring during the course.
Study load is the equivalent of 5 ECTS.
The course is free for PhD candidates who are a member of the 4TU Center for Ethics and Technology.
You can register by sending an email to email@example.com
For more information contact the course coordinator Yashar Saghai.