Technoethics

The growing field of technoethics is based on the premise that it is 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 critically about the way that technology changes identity, society, morality, or 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, I believe that 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 a key motivation for our technological endeavors, such that our well-being and the health of our planet transcends technology’s relentless lust for progress, status, economic 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.

Philosophy of PJ
The more we want to learn about/from/through/with/against technology, the more we need to understand about being human.

Heidegger’s Questions Concerning Technology
Heidegger (1977) tells a poetic story about the mysterious ambiguity that reveals our understanding of truth and technology: “Because the essence of technology is nothing technological, essential reflection upon technology and decisive confrontation with it must happen in a realm that is, on the one hand, akin to the essence of technology and, on the other, fundamentally different from it. Such a realm is art. But certainly only if reflection on art, for its part, does not shut its eyes to the constellation of truth after which we are questioning” (p. 35).

Heidegger (1977) believes that humanity poetically dwells upon the earth and the way to freedom from the binding influences of technology is found by coming into presence with the poetic beautiful (once there was a time when the fine arts was also called techne) and awakening (not preserving or being indifferent to) our thoughts. Heidegger tells that the coming to presence of technology harbors in itself what we least suspect: the possible arising of its saving power. “But where danger is, grows the saving power also” (p. 35). As we get closer and closer to danger, the ways into its saving power begin to shine more brightly as we become more questioning – and revealing these questions is the piety of thought.

Caputo (1993) talks about Heidegger’s questioning that is built by thinking and how we must preserve our space for dwelling in a thoughtful poetic language: “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” (p. 137).

Unequivocally, as Heidegger argues, the Questions Concerning Technology 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 bring forth and think through the questions through ourselves, then (for better or for worse) the answers will be inevitably forced upon us. Our questioning is the essential nature of technoethics.

References
Caputo, J. (1993). Demythologizing Heidegger. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Heidegger, M. (1977). The Question Concerning Technology and other essays. (W. Lovitt, trans.). New York: Harper and Row.