Ethics of technological risk

Emotions are important determinants in risk perception. Yet, emotions are generally excluded from communication and political decision making about risky technologies and climate change (...) Emotions might be an indispensable normative guide in judging the moral acceptability of technological risks.

Prof. Dr. Sabine Roeser

This course investigates ethical aspects of risks. Debates about technological risks related to, for example, energy technologies, robotics and biotechnology frequently culminate in stalemates. This is due to the complexities and intricacies inherent to such debates as they involve scientific information and uncertainties, as well as ethical and emotional considerations. Conventional, quantitative approaches focus solely on statistical information about risk. They do not incorporate important ethical considerations such as justice, fairness and autonomy. Furthermore, emotions such as compassion, care and feelings of responsibility can draw attention to such ethical aspects of risky technologies. Taking emotions seriously can lead to more fruitful deliberation between different stakeholders in which relevant concerns are taken seriously and are explicitly reflected upon. This course will study how approaches to ethical aspects of risk can lead to more morally responsible decision making and design of technological innovations.

 

This course will provide students with an understanding of approaches to risk ethics and students will get experience with discussing and evaluating ethical aspects of risk.

The course consists of self-study, lectures and tutorials. It will be assessed by an exam and for students who take the 5 ECTS version of this course, also by an essay.

Lectures / tutorials

Week 1

·       Opening of the course

·       Recap ethical theories

·       Opportunity to ask questions about the preparatory material

·       Lecture on philosophy of risk

 

Texts to be prepared:

Roeser, Sabine (2018), Risk, Technology, and Moral Emotions, Routledge - Chapter 1

2.      Hansson, Sven Ove (2014), "Risk", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

 

Week 2

·       Lecture on risk perception

 

Texts to be prepared:

1.      Paul Slovic, (1999). Trust, emotion, sex, politics, and science: Surveying the risk-assessment battlefield. Risk Analysis, vol 19, pp. 689–701.

2.      Cass Sunstein (2011), Moral Heuristics and Risk, in Sabine Roeser (ed.) Emotions and Risky Technologies, pp. 3-16

3.      Introduction (pp 3-13) of: Shrader-Frechette, K. S. (1991). Risk and rationality: Philosophical foundations for populist reforms. Berkeley, CA etc.: University of California Press.

 

Week 3: selfstudy – time to catch up with the reading material if necessary and to read ahead.

 

Week 4

·       Lecture on risk and values

 

Texts to be prepared:

Roeser chapters 2 & 3

 

Tutorial: Students need to enrol for groups via Brightspace.

 

·       Risk debate pro/con on a controversial energy technology: shale gas

 

Text to be prepared:

Eefje Cuppen, Udo Pesch, Sanne Remmerswaal, Mattijs Taanman, (2016), Normative diversity, conflict and transition: Shale gas in the Netherlands, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, in Press

 

Week 5

·      Guest lecture on formal methods to risk assessment by Prof.dr. Pieter van Gelder (safety science) and dr. Sjoerd Zwart (philosophy)

 

Texts to be prepared:

1.      Möller, N., 2012. The concepts of risk and safety. In: Roeser, S., Hillerbrand, R., Sandin, P., Peterson, M. (Eds.), Handbook of Risk Theory: Epistemology, Decision Theory, Ethics and Social Implications of Risk. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 55–85.

2.      Plus tba

 

Week 6

·       Lecture on risk and emotion

 

Texts to be prepared:

              Roeser chapter 4, chapter 5.1-2, 5.4-7, 6

Optional:

Hermansson, Helene (2012), ‘Defending the Conception of “Objective Risk”’, Risk Analysis 32: 16–24

 

Week 7:

Lecture

·       Lecture on risk and emotional deliberation

 

Texts to be prepared:

Roeser chapters 7 & 8

 

Tutorial: Same groups as in week 4.

 

·       Role playing game to develop and practice with an ‘emotional deliberation method’

 

Text to be prepared:

Tricia S. Jones and Andrea Bodtker (2001), ‘Mediating with Heart in Mind: Addressing Emotion in Mediation Practice’, Negotiation Journal, 207-244

Readings for this course:

Roeser, Sabine (2018), Risk, Technology, and Moral Emotions, Routledge

Hansson, Sven Ove (2014), "Risk", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.

Paul Slovic, (1999). Trust, emotion, sex, politics, and science: Surveying the risk-assessment battlefield. Risk Analysis, vol 19, pp. 689–701.

Cass Sunstein (2011), Moral Heuristics and Risk, in Sabine Roeser (ed.) Emotions and Risky Technologies, pp. 3-16

Introduction (pp 3-13) of: Shrader-Frechette, K. S. (1991). Risk and rationality: Philosophical foundations for populist reforms. Berkeley, CA etc.: University of California Press.

Eefje Cuppen, Udo Pesch, Sanne Remmerswaal, Mattijs Taanman, (2016), Normative diversity, conflict and transition: Shale gas in the Netherlands, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, in Press

Möller, N., 2012. The concepts of risk and safety. In: Roeser, S., Hillerbrand, R., Sandin, P., Peterson, M. (Eds.), Handbook of Risk Theory: Epistemology, Decision Theory, Ethics and Social Implications of Risk. Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 55–85.

Hermansson, Helene (2012), ‘Defending the Conception of “Objective Risk”’, Risk Analysis 32: 16–2

Tricia S. Jones and Andrea Bodtker (2001), ‘Mediating with Heart in Mind: Addressing Emotion in Mediation Practice’, Negotiation Journal, 207-244

Risk and ethics part one


TEDxDelft - Sabine Roeser - Emotions should play an important role in debates on risky technology