Article InformationEdit

Title: Assessing Flemish citizens' moral argumentations on nanotechnologies: an incentive to reconsider the interactive Technology Assessment approach to new and emerging technologies

Author(s): Michiel van Oudheusden

Affiliation: University of Antwerp

Presented At: STiS 2008

Primary Topic Area: Ethics and S&T


This article assesses Flemish citizens’ moral arguments on the emergence of nanotechnologies as discerned in two citizens’ panels in the Interactive Technology Assessment (ITA) project ‘Nanotechnologies for Tomorrow’s Society’, in which the authors are involved. It finds that citizens express enthusiasm, skepticism and anxiety – and thus ambivalence – towards nanotechnologies, and that certain ambiguities prevail in citizens’ usage of terms such as privacy and autonomy and in their weighing of moral claims and counterclaims. To do justice to the complexity of how citizens make sense of technology and related issues, the authors connect the emerged values to three clusters of ethical principles: well-being, dignity, and fairness. These principles are rooted in several normative theories including consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics. In addition, the authors make concrete suggestions to rethink the rational consensus model of deliberation on which ITA is based, opting for an approach that treats citizens’ undecided and dual responses to new technologies as a creative resource rather than as a deficit that needs to be solved.

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