He was an associate professor in ethics and technology at Delft University. He did a master’s degree in physical chemistry and in philosophy of the natural sciences, and a PhD (Models of scientific development and the case of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) in philosophy, at the University of Groningen. Between 1986 and 1997 his main assignment was at the Dutch Ministry of Education and Sciences, in a range of policy functions related to higher education and university research. He has been associated with Delft University of Technology since 1991.
His research aims at formulating and implementing requirements that should be satisfied for responsible and coherent assessment, management and regulation of the risks of modern technology, and for responsible and coherent private (economic) and collective (political) decision making about these risks. At the centre of his research are two requirements that should be satisfied in order to respect ethical principles and in order to safeguard social progress: (1) Decision making regarding technological risks should be performed on the basis of consensus among all those who will experience the possible consequences; (2) Liability for possible damage from risky activities should be absolute and unlimited for activities that lack the informed consent of those who may experience the consequences. The implications of these requirements are assessed for:
The procedures in use for taking political decisions regarding technological risks;
Liability laws and laws governing legal persons such as corporations;
The processes of and methods for assessing and managing risks in technology producing and controlling organisations.