Philosophy & Ethics (PE)

Main research interest (DSC/e related)

Research in the P&E group covers various areas where fundamental philosophical issues and technology-related real-world problems intertwine. Within philosophy, our expertise lies in a variety of sub-disciplines: normative ethics, meta-ethics, philosophy of science, epistemology. In our research, reflection on technology-related problems and technological innovations should go beyond the application of existing frameworks: we seek substantial changes to existing theories such as consequentialism, frameworks for responsible innovation, or the extended-mind hypothesis. Also the development of entirely new frameworks, such as the ethical design cycle, and theories of technical functions and of engineering knowledge has our interest.

Moreover, we work on fundamental critical assessments of technology-related work in various sciences, and of programs in engineering disciplines. Examples are assessments of climate modelling, of theories and models of cultural evolution; of the use of persuasive technologies, of social robotics, of ICT and data science, and of advances in medical and mobility technologies.

Success stories

We’ve created a new conceptual framework for moral responsibility which makes it possible, among other things, to devise solutions to the ‘problem of many hands’. It is of use in its entirety to those who are concerned with practical issues of responsibility distribution in institutions, particularly institutions of a technical nature

We have given a joint advice with the Rathenau Institute on the future of the traffic system in the Netherlands. The report explores the impact of ‘smart mobility’, including ICT and persuasive technologies to influence the driver’s behavior in order to improve safety and sustainability and minimize congestion.

The book Just “Ordinary Robots” identifies social and normative questions to be addressed in the short and long term, and highlights key points to be discussed publicly, by politicians and policy makers.

Project examples

  • Quantified self project on self tracking technologies Focus is on a conceptual tension between the idea that disclosing personal information increases one’s autonomy and the idea that informational privacy is a condition for autonomous personhood. The main research question is: What ethical concerns are raised by the surveillance, quantification and enhancement dimensions of self-tracking technologies, with regard to an agent’s "open future"? 
  • Value trade-offs of interoperable big data in public safety and medical contexts: develop a framework for analyzing the value trade-offs associated with rendering cloud-based big data sets interoperable for the sake of public safety or health. The framework produced will provide input for interoperable information system design and specification.