The aim of this postdoc project is to perform a multi-method empirical investigation and philosophical analysis of the ethical practices and mechanisms (e.g., safeguards, guidelines) employed by current scientific thought leaders in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, CEOs, entrepreneurs and technical experts in relevant high-tech/biotech industries in order to create ethical awareness, assess ethical drivers and barriers, and raise ethical concerns. As a case study, the post-doc will investigate technologies of prospection (apps, wearables, genetic testing) which aim to enhance many life-design and planning tasks as well as predict how everyday behaviours contribute to (or compromise) a user's values and goals (Neff & Nafus 2016). Creators of such technologies claim to offer powerful ways to empower users by refining traditional life planning tools (Viganò 2022). Future technologies of prospection (e.g., AR/VR) may be scaled up to illuminate humanity-wide problems, especially environmental challenges that could be mitigated by allowing users to view the ethical challenges that future generations will face in the present (Meijers 2021). Technologies of prospection have many functions. They can (1) connect lifestyle choices and genetic predispositions with end-of-life health outcomes, (2) foresee future savings and retirement conditions, (3) show the future carbon footprint of potentially environmentally damaging behaviours (e.g., commuting, meat consumption), or (4) assist in informing advance healthcare directives. Deploying foresight technologies often creates novel ethical problems. There will be a special emphasis on the extent to which currently used ethical concepts, methods, and recommendations can better connect with practices and methods in STEM, industry, and policy making, especially regarding the disruptive or transformative potential of emerging technologies.Job Description
The postdoc will employ (1) an interdisciplinary and/or (2) a transdisciplinary methodology to explore this topic. Regarding (1), they will combine knowledge of cutting-edge STEM research with ethical insights and analysis to better understand the ethical challenges of technologies of prospection (and other socially disruptive technologies). Regarding (2), they will collaborate with other consortium researchers who aim to share their research insights with non-academic stakeholders, such as citizens, policy makers, and science-communication organisations (Nxt Museum, Next Nature Network, WAAG, etc.).
The postdoc will pursue an independent research agenda that supports key research goals of the ESDiT consortium and engages with technologies of prospection. This will involve cooperation with STEM representatives from inside and outside the ESDiT (e.g., the Hybrid Intelligence project), as well as cooperation with the other concurrent projects in the consortium, which are devoted to (1) interdisciplinarity philosophical understanding, and (2) transdisciplinary impact for policy makers, industry, and the general public.
This postdoc position offers a 3-year appointment, focused primarily on performing research and publishing research results, but the postdoc will be expected to contribute to relevant educational programmes at the intersection of the Human-Technology Interaction and Philosophy and Ethics groups (max. 0,1 - 0,2 FTE). The postdoc will be appointed within the Human-Technology Interaction group, which is part of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences (See 'Organization' below).
This postdoc position will be part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies (ESDiT) programme, a ten-year international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands that started in January 2020. This programme has a combined budget of €27 million, and is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) in the Gravitation funding scheme for excellent research, and by matching funds from the participating institutions. The duration is from January 2020 to December 2029. The programme has the aim of achieving breakthrough research at the intersection of ethics, philosophy, technology/engineering and social sciences, and to position its consortium at the top of its field internationally. A key objective is to investigate how new technologies challenge moral values and ontological concepts (like 'nature', 'human being' and 'community'), and how these challenges necessitate a revision of these concepts. The programme includes four research lines, 'Nature, Life and Human Intervention', 'The Future of a Free and Fair Society', 'The Human Condition' and 'Foundations & Synthesis'. This postdoc position will be situated within the Foundations & Synthesis research line, with close connections to the Human Condition research line.
More information about the research lines and the consortium as a whole is available here: www.esdit.nl