Thursday, June 1, 2023

Mechanisms of Techno-Moral Change: A Taxonomy and Overview

I just published a new paper with my co-author Henrik Skaug Sætra. It's about the ways in which technology can alter our moral beliefs and practices. Many people study the phenomenon of techno-moral change but, to some extent, the existing literature is fragmented and heterogeneous - lots of case studies and examples but not enough theoretical unity. The goal of this paper is to bring some order to existing discussions by proposing a taxonomy of mechanisms of techno-moral change. We argue that there are six primary mechanisms through which technology can alter moral beliefs and practices and that these slot into three main categories (decisional, relational, perceptual). More details in the abstract below. The table, pictured above, summarises the key ideas in the paper. The full paper is available open access at the link provided.

Title: Mechanisms of Techno-Moral Change: A Taxonomy and Overview
Links: Official (free OA); Researchgate; Philpapers
Abstract: The idea that technologies can change moral beliefs and practices is an old one. But how, exactly, does this happen? This paper builds on an emerging field of inquiry by developing a synoptic taxonomy of the mechanisms of techno-moral change. It argues that technology affects moral beliefs and practices in three main domains: decisional (how we make morally loaded decisions), relational (how we relate to others) and perceptual (how we perceive situations). It argues that across these three domains there are six primary mechanisms of techno-moral change: (i) adding options; (ii) changing decision-making costs; (iii) enabling new relationships; (iv) changing the burdens and expectations within relationships; (v) changing the balance of power in relationships; and (vi) changing perception (information, mental models and metaphors). The paper also discusses the layered, interactive and second-order effects of these mechanisms.


1 comment:

  1. This seems like important work to me. The idea has entered my thinking for a couple of dozen years. Not long ago, I read a short assessment by Crisp at Oxford, saying that morality does not matter much. I have thought so and, to that broad brush ,I add ethics. It might be more pertinent to add that these notions, as we once regarded them don't matter much, because they are subsumed by technological change which renders them less relevant. Your schemata seems to go in that direction. I made some remarks earlier on transgender and gender re-assignment issues: level playing fields and such.