Resources on Technology Ethics


  • How would you construct an ethical framework within which to judge technologies, specifically digital technologies?
  • We can begin by taking a general purpose ethical framework and adapting it to this domain.
  • We can apply examples to the framework and see how they are judged.
  • We can use real world examples and examples from fiction.

The definition of technology

  • etymology: from Greek tekhnologia

"systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique,"

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Philosophy of Technology
  • Technology is an ongoing attempt to bring the world closer to the way one wishes it to be.
  • The ideas on what is to be or what ought to be are seen as originating outside of technology itself.
  • Technology is a practice focused on the creation of artifacts and, of increasing importance, artifact-based services.
  • The instrumental vision of technology: ethical responsibility rests on the user, and technology is neutral, Heavily critqued by Heidegger, Ellul, the Frankfurt School (Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Habermas).


Joseph Pitt


  • Technology contains a script that affects behavior; and the absence of a fundamental distinction between human and nonhuman.


  • Technology forms the material structure of production and thus the social structure.

The Philosophy of Software Technology

  • etymology:

the non-physical components of a computer

  • The specific types of ethics at this level are called Applied Ethics



engineers as the high priests of technology, who cherish technology but cannot steer it.

The Philosophy of Information

Norbert Weiner

DARPA, Social Media, and AI

LifeLog technology will support the long-term IPTO vision of a new class of truly "cognitive" systems that can reason in a variety of ways, using substantial amounts of appropriately represented knowledge; can learn from experiences so that their performance improves as they accumulate knowledge and experience; can explain their actions and can accept direction; can be aware of their own behavior and reflect on their own capabilities; and can respond in a robust manner to surprises.

  • Information Innovation Office
  • Given the data pulled by LifeLog and the DARPA view on AI, the purpose of social media is likely to develop an AI capable of reasoning in broad contexts.

Existing Ethical Frameworks

The Common Good Approach


  • The Republic: "cohesion and unity" that
  • result[s] from the common feelings of pleasure and pain which you get when all members of a society are glad or sorry for the same successes and failures.



  • Machiavelli contended that securing the common good would depend upon the existence of virtuous citizens. Indeed, Machiavelli developed the notion of virtù to denote the quality of promoting the common good through the act of citizenship, be it through military or political action.
  • The Prince

Adam Smith

  • Invisible Hand

John Rawls

certain general conditions that are...equally to everyone's advantage

The Catholic Church

the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment.

  • Epistle of Barnabas

Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already [fully] justified, but gather instead to seek together the common good.

  • City of God (Augistine)

Is the good life social?' In other words, 'Is human wellbeing found in the good of the whole society, the common good?


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