The growing field of technoethics is based on the premise that it’s of vital importance to encourage dialogue aimed at determining the ethical use of technology, guarding against its misuse, and devising thoughtful principles that help to guide new technological advances for the benefit society in a variety of social contexts and ethical dimensions.
Technoethics is not only an intellectually analytical process, it is also a cultural product with serious implications for understanding some of the “none-too-visible” dimensions of how policies and decisions about technology are made.
Most people agree that technology drives our society, but precious few think about the way that technology changes our society, our morality and our ethical being-in-the-more-than-human-world. Technoethics is an interdisciplinary research area concerned with all moral and ethical aspects of a technological society. Typically, scholars in technoethics have a tendency to theorize technology and ethics as interconnected, co-constitutive and embedded in life and society. As today’s ethical challenges are so great and the dangers of the misuse of technology are so global, entailing a potential catastrophe for all humankind, we need a much higher level of public involvement with diverse perspectives to inform technoethics.
How might we develop a moral compass to use collectively as a gage for ethical thought and technological action, such that we can go forth together as a united human family without getting stuck in political divisions and cultural differences? How might we nurture a holistic and integrative technoethic that values compassion as the key motivation for our technological endeavors, such that our well-being and the well-being of our planet transcends technology’s relentless lust for progress, status, profit and competition? In addition to compassion, I believe that we need awareness of our vulnerability for being misguided in such a rapidly changing technological reality, as well as humility for the fragility of our planet. You might object that values of compassion, humility and vulnerability are unrealistic or of secondary significance, but the earth is our only home and as our human family faces the unknown frontiers of a technological world, what other option do we have?
PJ’s Philosophy of Technoethics:
The more we want to learn about technology,
the more we need to understand about being human.
Heidegger’s Questions Concerning Technology:
In Demythologizing Heidegger, Caputo (1993, p.137) talks about Heidegger’s questioning that is built by thinking and how we must preserve our space for dwelling: “The need for dwelling is not merely that we do not know the essence of dwelling but that we do not know that we do not know, that we do not know that this is necessary, what is needed most of all. What we really lack is thought, not shelter; what we really need to provide for is thinking, not housing… The house that we really lack is the house of being, the home we really need is to make our home in a thoughtful poetic language in which we can ponder the essence of dwelling.”
As Heidegger argues, the Questions Concerning Technology (1977) really matter. The quality of our lives and the very definition of life itself depends upon which questions get asked and who gets to do the answering. If we do not think the questions through ourselves, then (for better or for worse) the answers will be inevitably forced upon us. “But where danger is, grows the saving power also…“ Heidegger (1977, p.35) believes that the coming to presence of technology holds in itself what we least suspect: the possible arising of its saving power. As we get closer and closer to technology’s danger, the ways into its saving power begin to shine more brightly as we become more questioning. Revealing these questions is the essential nature of technoethics.