Centre for Technomoral Futures

What are Technomoral Futures?

Centre for Technomoral Futures

What are Technomoral Futures?

What are Technomoral Futures?

What are Technomoral Futures?


The Centre works to foster the development and use of technomoral wisdom in the design of possible futures. Technical and moral intelligence are not independent domains of expertise. They must operate in concert in order to envision, design, build, and sustain environments where shared flourishing is possible. To imagine and create the kinds of futures in which people can thrive, what is needed is neither technical skill nor moral discernment alone, but their successful integration: technomoral wisdom.

Our mission is to unify technical and moral modes of future-building expertise in new models of research, education, design, and engagement that directly serve the goals of sustainable, just and ethical innovation.

We will leverage the strength of EFI’s network of researchers, educators, designers, and practitioners drawn from across the University of Edinburgh’s schools and other hubs of Data-Driven Innovation, to host ambitious and creative programmes of multidisciplinary research, teaching, citizen engagement and private and public collaboration.

While retaining the critical rigor of traditional academic inquiry, our programmes and activities will be custom-built to meet the growing moral, political and technical challenges of designing and sustaining equitable and thriving futures in the Edinburgh City Region, Scotland and beyond.

Technology is never morally neutral even when its effects in the world are difficult to predict. All technologies are extensions of human judgments about what is good to achieve, produce, accelerate, measure, repair, or build. Those judgments are incorporated—often consciously, but even more often implicitly—into technologies through human practices of design, development and deployment and through choices about who technology will benefit.

Learn more about the Centre’s context and challenge
We seek to move the debate about responsible and ethical technology beyond a view of ethics as an external constraint upon technical innovation, itself assumed to be ‘nonmoral’ or ‘morally neutral.’

Technology is never morally neutral even when its effects in the world are difficult to predict. All technologies are extensions of human judgments about what is good to achieve, produce, accelerate, measure, repair, or build. Those judgments are incorporated—often consciously, but even more often implicitly—into technologies through human practices of design, development and deployment and through choices about who technology will benefit.

Moreover, technology is a source of power, and no significant increase of power within a community is morally neutral. Power alters the entitlements, obligations, and structures of relationships among peoples and nations. Power shapes whose voices are heard and whose rights are recognized. When power shifts, the flow of justice shifts with it.

Just as technology is never morally neutral, morality in everyday life is reliant upon technique: social, political and material ways of expressing and embedding human values into our actions, relationships, communities and institutions.

Technology and moral values are therefore not independent, but interwoven. Together, they enable us to critically orient ourselves toward the design of possible, better futures.

Technology is thus far more than devices and gadgets. Technology encompasses the vast range of tools and techniques we use to build our values, needs, desires, and hopes for the future into the material, social, and informational worlds we inhabit.

Meanwhile, morality consists of the many cultural and philosophical techniques humans have developed for identifying social worlds and futures that would be good for us to inhabit, and that we would be wise to work together to build in ethical ways. Such futures cannot be invented and sustained with technology or morality alone; they require technomoral expertise in concretely embedding ethical ways of life into our built worlds.

Today, expertise in technomoral innovation is more important than ever, as data-driven advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, data science, smart devices and algorithmic automation reshape our social, political, and physical environments and bring more of our public institutions, goods, services and relationships online. It is essential that these rapid changes to the shape of our world be guided by intellectually rigorous, wise, creative and deeply integrated applications of technical and moral intelligence.

Yet for the past century, technical and moral expertise have been viewed as belonging to separate spheres of knowledge and action, held at arms-length from one another by traditional disciplinary boundaries between scientific, technical and humane modes of research and innovation, as well as barriers erected between knowledge produced in academic, civic, family and practitioner environments.

The institutional separation of technical and moral wisdom has made it harder to predict and prevent unintended harms associated with new technologies, and harder to maintain, repair and improve the condition of our social institutions. The result is weakened public trust and confidence in the human ability to design, build and navigate better futures. This is the challenge that the Centre is positioned to meet.

 



Where to Find Us

@CentreTMFutures

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