Forecasting ethics and the ethics of forecasting: the case of nanotechnology

David Horner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBN

Abstract

This paper argues that social foresight and technological forecasting are essentially fraudulent activities which at best are temporarily delusive but at worst may constitute a waste of valuable resources. Futurists conceive of forecasting as a contribution to ethical debate about the future impacts of technology. This paper makes forecasting itself the focus of ethical attention. I use nanotechnology as a paradigm case of a technology about which many and often conflicting claims are made regarding its future impacts. Nanotechnology follows in a long tradition of technologies which are claimed to be fundamentally transformative being described as ‘revolutionary’ in their social, economic and political implications. It is suggested that we ought to anticipate the kinds of moral problems and dilemmas that such transformations may produce. I challenge the view that there can be any such moral obligation to foresee such transformations. I argue that given that we cannot in fact know the eventual outcomes of current social and technological changes then we cannot be under any such obligation to anticipate them. Those who make large scale claims about the future can have no reasonable warrant for doing so. I reinforce my position by arguing the essential unknowability of the kinds of values and choices future generations will make.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationETHICOMP 2007: Glocalisation: Bridging the global nature of information and communication technology and the local nature of human beings
Place of PublicationTokyo, Japan
PublisherGlobal e-SCM Research Center, Meiji University
Pages257-267
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9784990355807
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2007
EventETHICOMP 2007: Glocalisation: Bridging the global nature of information and communication technology and the local nature of human beings - Global e-SCM Research Centre, Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan, 27-29 March 2007
Duration: 27 Mar 2007 → …

Conference

ConferenceETHICOMP 2007: Glocalisation: Bridging the global nature of information and communication technology and the local nature of human beings
Period27/03/07 → …

Bibliographical note

© 2007 The Author(s)

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