Postdoctoral researcher (3 years) Philosophical analysis of socially disruptive technologies and transformations of society and culture

The department of philosophy of the University of Twente is looking for a Postdoctoral researcher (3 years) to do a philosophical analysis of socially disruptive technologies and transformations of society and culture, with special reference to transformations of fundamental concepts and values

The Challenge

Socially disruptive technologies are technologies that change society in fundamental ways. They transform everyday life, social institutions, cultural practices, and the organisation of the economy, business, and work. They may even affect our fundamental beliefs and values. Current technologies with this promise include new digital technologies such artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, new bio- and brain technologies like gene editing and synthetic biology, and new environmental technologies like climate engineering and low-carbon technologies.

The aim of this postdoc project is to examine the nature and variety of these technologies and their disruptive and transformative effects, with special consideration of transformative effects on human thought, conceptualisation, valuation and morality. The project will include, with accents to be provided by the postdoc, the following lines of investigation:

  1. A philosophical investigation, with a multidisciplinary orientation, of the notions of social disruption and social transformation, and classifications of technologies and (socio)technological products and systems as to their type and degree of disruption or transformation of various aspects of society.
  2. A philosophical-multidisciplinary investigation of types of (disruptive/transformative) impacts of technology on society, including impacts on social structures, institutions, cultural and epistemic practices, concepts, values and beliefs.
  3. A philosophical-multidisciplinary investigation and assessment of theories and approaches, in philosophy and social sciences, for identifying, assessing and measuring transformative and disruptive impacts of technology, and for studying interactions between technology and society generally.
  4. A philosophical-multidisciplinary investigation of the impact of technology on conceptualization and valuation (e.g., semantic changes in ontological and moral concepts).

The main output will consist of scientific publications (single- and multi-author; the latter with other researchers in the programme).

This PhD postdoc position is part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme, a new ten-year long international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands that has started in January 2020. This ten-year programme has a combined budget of € 27 million, and is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research in the Gravitation funding scheme for excellent research, and by matching funds from the participating institutions. It has the aim of achieving breakthrough research in at the intersection of ethics, philosophy, technology / engineering and social sciences, and to position its consortium at the top of its field internationally. A key objective is to investigate how new technologies challenge moral values and ontological concepts (like “nature”, “human being” and “community”), and how these challenges necessitate a revision of these concepts. This postdoc project will provide some of its conceptual and theoretical foundations. We also expect the postdoc to engage with other projects and research lines in the programme, and to organise workshops and meetings aimed at collaboration on the themes in the postdoc project.

Our offer

You will be appointed for three years. The university offers a dynamic ecosystem with enthusiastic colleagues in which internationalisation is an important part of the strategic agenda.

  • Starting salary between € 3.255,- to € 4.274,- gross per month based on your experience;
  • An additional holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary and a year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • A generous (conference) travel budget;
  • Possibilities to save up holidays for sabbatical leave;
  • Minimum of 29 holidays in case of full-time employment;
  • Professional and personal development programs;
  • A high degree of responsibility and independence, while collaborating with close colleagues, researchers and other university staff is strongly encouraged.
  • International candidates are likely to qualify for a low 30% tax rate.

Candidates we seek

  • hold a Ph.D. in philosophy, science and technology studies (STS), or a related field;
  • have experience in research, which is apparent from publications in highly ranked academic journals, presentations at international scientific conferences, and other academic activities;
  • possess expertise relevant to the project, e.g., in philosophical and analytical studies of technology and society, impact assessment methodologies, theories of conceptual change, or other.
  • possess good communication skills and an excellent command of English, at least at C2 level;

Information and application

Desired starting date: September 1st (negotiable).

For more information about the Ethics of Socially Disruptive programme, see our website: You can also request a full programme blueprint and a longer description of the postdoc profile from Seeta Autar (). For additional information, please contact Prof. dr. Philip Brey, e-mail: or phone: +31534894426.

Your application should include a CV (including the title of your dissertation and a short description of its contents, and contact information for two or more references), a letter of application, and a writing sample and should be uploaded no later than March 22nd 2020. Applications should be uploaded through!/1106978/postdoc-researcher-in-philosophy-of-technology – scroll down to “Apply now” button.

There are other vacancies in the ESDT programme at different participating universities. In case several are of interest to you, we encourage you to apply to them simultaneously.

About the department of philosophy

The philosophy department ( has around 40 members (faculty, postdocs, PhD candidates). It is a thoroughly international department, with English as the main language. It specialises in its research in the philosophical and ethical study of technology and its impact on people, society, and the environment.

Diversity policy

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our university. We are committed to enhancing and sustaining diversity in the composition of our staff. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, colour, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability status.



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