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Why technology needs humans,
more than laws
Federica Russo
Philosophy & ILLC | University of Amsterdam
russofederica.wordpress.com |@federicarusso
The pervasiveness of technology
2
3
Two widely accepted consequences
Technological development is a
necessity
Technology has to be regulated
4
Against the tide
Technology needs humans more than laws
5
Thinking differently about technology
Technology is not a necessity
 We can get out of the trap of technological determinism
 We don’t need to fall into utopian or dystopian views
Instead, technology needs us because
 We invent it
 First, with Simondon and Wiener, we explore the role of the inventor, the designer
 We use it
 Further, we analyse the role of humans in the techno-scientific process
Technological development is our choice
 Last, we emphasise our role in decided which processes to initiate or not
6
What is technological determinism?
7
8
Utopian views
• Technology will lead
to changes for the
better, and for sure
Dystopian views
• Technology will lead to
changes for the worse,
and for sure
Negroponte,
Being digital
Rifkin,
The end of work
Where does the moral question of
technology come from?
9
Technology as applied science
 A widespread view: technology is an application (of science)
 Normative questions about technology arise from application, not theory
 But even the distinction between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ science, between science and
technology can be challenged
 What we considered ‘pure’ or ‘applied’ changed over the years, not just because of
epistemological / methodological question, but mainly because of historical, socio-
political context
 Douglas, ‘Pure Science and the Problem of Progress’
 There no ‘pure’ scientific or ’technological’ practices; no ‘pure’ scientific’ or ‘technological’
objects. There are techno-scientific practices and objects
 Russo, Techno-scientific practices: An informational approach
10
Can we get out of
the deterministic trap?
11
Technologies are
not neutral instruments
 ‘Things’ are not politically neutral, as they can foster or hinder social
communication and relations, trade, etc.
 Winner, ‘Do artefacts have politics?’
 Technologies are inherently linked to the environment in which they operate,
this environment being material, social and cultural too
 Radder, ‘Science, Technology and the Science–Technology Relationship’
12
Technologies are possibilities
 The normative dimension of technologies is not a new problem
 Cybernetics, as it has been developed since the 1940s onwards
 Cybernetics offers possibilities, we decide which possibilities to develop or
not
 Wiener, Cybernetics & The human use of human beings
13
Technologies are affordances
 “What can technologies do?”
 Reverse the question on its head
 “What do technologies allow us to do?
 From the original work of Gibson in psychology, technologies are also
affordances
14
https://alearningaday.blog/2017/03/16/adding-affordances-to-ux/
What changes with
digital technologies?
 New metanarratives
 Digital technologies do produce a break, and possibly a form of
control in the regulation of the market, but also bear opportunities, for
instance in facilitating collective discussions of norms
Lyotard, The postmodern condition
 The digital revolution calls for a different way of understanding reality,
knowledge, and ethics; we need to develop new conceptual tools for a
new way of being
Floridi, The 4th Revolution
15
Technology, and us
Or, on the relations between humans and technologies
16
The digital revolution
 The fourth revolution, explained by Floridi
 We, humans, are inforgs in the infosphere
Infosphere: informational environment. The whole space of possible
information, including Nature.
Inforgs: informational organisms. We, intelligent humans; intelligent
engineered artefacts
 A change in the interaction with the external world and with ourselves
17
No sharp boundaries between
humans and technologies
 Inforgs process information
 They can be humans, artificial, or hybrid agents
 An idea also developed in science studies and feminist epistemology
 Haraway ‘The cyborg manifesto’:
 No holistic or essentialist approach will succeed in answering the question of what
human beings are.
 The cyborg manifesto reject technological determinism: social relations have an
impact on technology too. We have to understand the intertwinement of socio-
technical systems, socio-economic structures, and sources of powers.
 A feminist critique help not just blur, but break, these boundaries
 Questioning the nature of human beings is to focus on relations, not
essences
18
The relations between humans and
technology
 An informational perspective: the concept of in-betweenness
 Where is technology?
1. Human – technology – nature
 Axes to split wood, saddles to ride, spectacles to see better, …
2. Human – technology – technology
 Machines since the industrial revolution, a dishwasher (not a smart one), a key in the
keyhole, …
3. Technology – technology – technology
 The internet of things, the finance algorithm that buys and sells stocks, your
automatic FB posting of the picture you just took, …
19
Technology needs us
20
Technology has an individuality
21
Concretization and individuation
 The philosophy of technics of Simondon
 Technical objects are designed and assembled
 They begin a process of concretization
 See how the parts ‘hang on’ together, how the object acquires form and shapes, how it starts
functioning
 From concretization to individuation
 Every technical objects goes through process of ontogenesis, it develops over time and in space,
interacting with the environment
 It becomes a technical individual
 Technical objects undergo a process of concretization and individuation
 Living beings undergo a similar process too, but they are not invented
22
Technology needs us
to be invented
23
A subtle, yet fundamental difference
 Simondon teaches us to think of technical objects
 Not just for their purpose or use
 They are more than instruments, tools
 Just like living beings, technical objects develop towards their own form of
individuality
 Yet, unlike living beings, technological objects are invented
 We – humans – invent and design technical objects
 We choose materials, assemblages, design the functioning, foresee the use
 We – humans – are the initiators of a process
 We have control, and also responsibility
24
Inventing objects, responsibly
 Since cybernetics, technological development is getting faster and broader
 Technological progress proceeds at high speeds
 The range of what machines can do gets bigger, and fast
 Technology is more than an object with a purpose, says Simondon
 But we – humans – set this purpose, says Wiener
 We invent machines and systems, and we do it for a reason
 Reasons, purposes, objectives are epistemic, and moral
 Wiener: cybernetics as moral philosophy
 It has to be developed for doing good to humans, not to harm them
25
Technology needs humans
to be used
26
We use technical objects
 To do things, to make stuff
 We hammer a nail, knead the dough, accelerate particles, fix a broken bone, …
 To study (parts of) the world
 We accelerate particles, analyse bio-samples, reconstruct the internal structure of the
body, …
 We hold responsibility for the reasons to use objects and for the modes of using
them
 We – humans – decide why and how to use a technology (rather than another)
27
Technological development is a
human choice
28
From blind technological determinism, to
questions of choice
 The blind faith and the blind despair
 Both concentrate on the wrong question:
✘ Where is technology going? And what consequences will this have on us?
 We need to change the question:
✓ Where do we want technology to go? What should it do for us?
29
We design, we choose
 We are inventors and designers, and we choose:
 Technical specifications
 Epistemic purposes
 Conditions and constraints
 Ethico-political values
 We need to rethink the process of technological design as including:
 Technical and epistemic specifications
 What and how something is designed
 Intended use, misuse to be avoided
 Why something is designed, when it should (not) used
30
Epistemology and ethics join forces
 With epistemology we make the design process epistemically good
 With ethics, we make the design process ethically good
 We internalize these processes
 No post-hoc evaluations
 No watchdogs
 We recover a unity of science, technology, philosophy, and ethics!
Tech Laws and Regulations cement, rather than constrain, the synergy of epistemology
and ethics of tech
31
Why does it matter?
32
Binary thinking
is always around the corner
 It is easy to fall back into utopian/dystopian views of technology
 But they are wrong and do not help with imagining the future
 Beyond binary thinking, we need to think about relations
 Simondon, in French Epistemology
 Veerbeek, in Postphenomenology
 Floridi, in Philosophy of Information
 These accounts focus on relations, or how
 The technology changes the environment
 The environment changes in response to the technology
 We have to set up new relations with technology and with the environment
33
Who cares?
34
We should care
 Design of technology comes with responsibility
 Epistemic: initiating and carrying out process of technological design
 Moral: setting the purposes and boundaries of the process
 As designers and users of techno-scientific objects, we play a big role in
shaping the future, and for this reason we are ipso facto moral agents
35
The moral agent is an agent that looks after the infosphere and brings about positive
improvements in it, so as to leave the infosphere in a better state than it was before
the intervention.
Luciano Floridi, The Ethics of Information
[…] the best way to catch the technology train is not to chase it, but to be at the next
station. In other words, we need to anticipate and steer the ethical development of
technological innovation.
Luciano Floridi, ‘Soft Ethics and the Government of the Digital’
36
Why technology needs humans,
more than laws
Federica Russo
Philosophy & ILLC | University of Amsterdam
russofederica.wordpress.com |@federicarusso

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High technologized justice – The road map for policy & regulation. Legaltech from a philosophical perspective

  • 1. Why technology needs humans, more than laws Federica Russo Philosophy & ILLC | University of Amsterdam russofederica.wordpress.com |@federicarusso
  • 2. The pervasiveness of technology 2
  • 3. 3
  • 4. Two widely accepted consequences Technological development is a necessity Technology has to be regulated 4
  • 5. Against the tide Technology needs humans more than laws 5
  • 6. Thinking differently about technology Technology is not a necessity  We can get out of the trap of technological determinism  We don’t need to fall into utopian or dystopian views Instead, technology needs us because  We invent it  First, with Simondon and Wiener, we explore the role of the inventor, the designer  We use it  Further, we analyse the role of humans in the techno-scientific process Technological development is our choice  Last, we emphasise our role in decided which processes to initiate or not 6
  • 7. What is technological determinism? 7
  • 8. 8 Utopian views • Technology will lead to changes for the better, and for sure Dystopian views • Technology will lead to changes for the worse, and for sure Negroponte, Being digital Rifkin, The end of work
  • 9. Where does the moral question of technology come from? 9
  • 10. Technology as applied science  A widespread view: technology is an application (of science)  Normative questions about technology arise from application, not theory  But even the distinction between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ science, between science and technology can be challenged  What we considered ‘pure’ or ‘applied’ changed over the years, not just because of epistemological / methodological question, but mainly because of historical, socio- political context  Douglas, ‘Pure Science and the Problem of Progress’  There no ‘pure’ scientific or ’technological’ practices; no ‘pure’ scientific’ or ‘technological’ objects. There are techno-scientific practices and objects  Russo, Techno-scientific practices: An informational approach 10
  • 11. Can we get out of the deterministic trap? 11
  • 12. Technologies are not neutral instruments  ‘Things’ are not politically neutral, as they can foster or hinder social communication and relations, trade, etc.  Winner, ‘Do artefacts have politics?’  Technologies are inherently linked to the environment in which they operate, this environment being material, social and cultural too  Radder, ‘Science, Technology and the Science–Technology Relationship’ 12
  • 13. Technologies are possibilities  The normative dimension of technologies is not a new problem  Cybernetics, as it has been developed since the 1940s onwards  Cybernetics offers possibilities, we decide which possibilities to develop or not  Wiener, Cybernetics & The human use of human beings 13
  • 14. Technologies are affordances  “What can technologies do?”  Reverse the question on its head  “What do technologies allow us to do?  From the original work of Gibson in psychology, technologies are also affordances 14 https://alearningaday.blog/2017/03/16/adding-affordances-to-ux/
  • 15. What changes with digital technologies?  New metanarratives  Digital technologies do produce a break, and possibly a form of control in the regulation of the market, but also bear opportunities, for instance in facilitating collective discussions of norms Lyotard, The postmodern condition  The digital revolution calls for a different way of understanding reality, knowledge, and ethics; we need to develop new conceptual tools for a new way of being Floridi, The 4th Revolution 15
  • 16. Technology, and us Or, on the relations between humans and technologies 16
  • 17. The digital revolution  The fourth revolution, explained by Floridi  We, humans, are inforgs in the infosphere Infosphere: informational environment. The whole space of possible information, including Nature. Inforgs: informational organisms. We, intelligent humans; intelligent engineered artefacts  A change in the interaction with the external world and with ourselves 17
  • 18. No sharp boundaries between humans and technologies  Inforgs process information  They can be humans, artificial, or hybrid agents  An idea also developed in science studies and feminist epistemology  Haraway ‘The cyborg manifesto’:  No holistic or essentialist approach will succeed in answering the question of what human beings are.  The cyborg manifesto reject technological determinism: social relations have an impact on technology too. We have to understand the intertwinement of socio- technical systems, socio-economic structures, and sources of powers.  A feminist critique help not just blur, but break, these boundaries  Questioning the nature of human beings is to focus on relations, not essences 18
  • 19. The relations between humans and technology  An informational perspective: the concept of in-betweenness  Where is technology? 1. Human – technology – nature  Axes to split wood, saddles to ride, spectacles to see better, … 2. Human – technology – technology  Machines since the industrial revolution, a dishwasher (not a smart one), a key in the keyhole, … 3. Technology – technology – technology  The internet of things, the finance algorithm that buys and sells stocks, your automatic FB posting of the picture you just took, … 19
  • 21. Technology has an individuality 21
  • 22. Concretization and individuation  The philosophy of technics of Simondon  Technical objects are designed and assembled  They begin a process of concretization  See how the parts ‘hang on’ together, how the object acquires form and shapes, how it starts functioning  From concretization to individuation  Every technical objects goes through process of ontogenesis, it develops over time and in space, interacting with the environment  It becomes a technical individual  Technical objects undergo a process of concretization and individuation  Living beings undergo a similar process too, but they are not invented 22
  • 23. Technology needs us to be invented 23
  • 24. A subtle, yet fundamental difference  Simondon teaches us to think of technical objects  Not just for their purpose or use  They are more than instruments, tools  Just like living beings, technical objects develop towards their own form of individuality  Yet, unlike living beings, technological objects are invented  We – humans – invent and design technical objects  We choose materials, assemblages, design the functioning, foresee the use  We – humans – are the initiators of a process  We have control, and also responsibility 24
  • 25. Inventing objects, responsibly  Since cybernetics, technological development is getting faster and broader  Technological progress proceeds at high speeds  The range of what machines can do gets bigger, and fast  Technology is more than an object with a purpose, says Simondon  But we – humans – set this purpose, says Wiener  We invent machines and systems, and we do it for a reason  Reasons, purposes, objectives are epistemic, and moral  Wiener: cybernetics as moral philosophy  It has to be developed for doing good to humans, not to harm them 25
  • 27. We use technical objects  To do things, to make stuff  We hammer a nail, knead the dough, accelerate particles, fix a broken bone, …  To study (parts of) the world  We accelerate particles, analyse bio-samples, reconstruct the internal structure of the body, …  We hold responsibility for the reasons to use objects and for the modes of using them  We – humans – decide why and how to use a technology (rather than another) 27
  • 28. Technological development is a human choice 28
  • 29. From blind technological determinism, to questions of choice  The blind faith and the blind despair  Both concentrate on the wrong question: ✘ Where is technology going? And what consequences will this have on us?  We need to change the question: ✓ Where do we want technology to go? What should it do for us? 29
  • 30. We design, we choose  We are inventors and designers, and we choose:  Technical specifications  Epistemic purposes  Conditions and constraints  Ethico-political values  We need to rethink the process of technological design as including:  Technical and epistemic specifications  What and how something is designed  Intended use, misuse to be avoided  Why something is designed, when it should (not) used 30
  • 31. Epistemology and ethics join forces  With epistemology we make the design process epistemically good  With ethics, we make the design process ethically good  We internalize these processes  No post-hoc evaluations  No watchdogs  We recover a unity of science, technology, philosophy, and ethics! Tech Laws and Regulations cement, rather than constrain, the synergy of epistemology and ethics of tech 31
  • 32. Why does it matter? 32
  • 33. Binary thinking is always around the corner  It is easy to fall back into utopian/dystopian views of technology  But they are wrong and do not help with imagining the future  Beyond binary thinking, we need to think about relations  Simondon, in French Epistemology  Veerbeek, in Postphenomenology  Floridi, in Philosophy of Information  These accounts focus on relations, or how  The technology changes the environment  The environment changes in response to the technology  We have to set up new relations with technology and with the environment 33
  • 35. We should care  Design of technology comes with responsibility  Epistemic: initiating and carrying out process of technological design  Moral: setting the purposes and boundaries of the process  As designers and users of techno-scientific objects, we play a big role in shaping the future, and for this reason we are ipso facto moral agents 35
  • 36. The moral agent is an agent that looks after the infosphere and brings about positive improvements in it, so as to leave the infosphere in a better state than it was before the intervention. Luciano Floridi, The Ethics of Information […] the best way to catch the technology train is not to chase it, but to be at the next station. In other words, we need to anticipate and steer the ethical development of technological innovation. Luciano Floridi, ‘Soft Ethics and the Government of the Digital’ 36
  • 37. Why technology needs humans, more than laws Federica Russo Philosophy & ILLC | University of Amsterdam russofederica.wordpress.com |@federicarusso

Editor's Notes

  1. Thanks Honoured Marisa and her broad vision on tech, and idea that we need more humanities Am not legal scholar, am scholar who is thinking a lot about tech and digi tech from phil pers, in techno-sci contexts, and wondering what kind of new/other vision of human-tech relations we need. Webinar today: Start from pervasivness of tech 2 widely accepted ideas: nec of tech development, need tech regulation INSTEAD: we need to think more of the relations between tech and humans: a tech needs US Introduce a number of ideas and of authors from phil to explain this idea, and to show how we can rethink human-tech relation
  2. Start with platitude: technology is everywhere
  3. Every day life. We think of computers and smartphones as changing our lives. But technology is present in our lives every day, and it has changed our lives, even when the simplest forms of tech have been invented and used Likewise, instruments in science are pervasive. We think of big instruments, e.g. LHD, mass spectometers, big optical telescopes … as making the whole difference in science. But instruments have been used since much earlier, some we still use today … and each of these, in their own way, changed the way we do science. But here talk about techno-scientific contexts specifically, although these ideas can be easily extended and applied to everyday usage of technology
  4. 1. Technology develops, it HAS to develop, we cannot stop this development. This may sound good news to those who have fait tech will solve all problems. For instance tech will solve medical problems, just as you are trying to do in this exciting network. We will nuance this idea, and in fact argue for the following. Technological development is not a necessity. It is a CHOICE. 2. Technology has to be regulated. Precisely because it is a necessity and because it can go astray, we need to put some boundaries to what tech can and cannot do. Will try to show that before we get to question of regulation, we need to think of what WE want tech for
  5. Metanarrative: the ability of synthetizing complex philosophical-political ideas into a single theoretical framework The Enlightenment: the Encyclopedia and the possibility of universal knowledge Caesuras: break downs in the metanarrative brought about by technologies (or other abrupt changes)
  6. Especially with the digital revolution, technologies enjoy greater autonomy with respect to humans This makes the question of the relations between humans and technology very pressing Next, we explore what it means for a piece of technology to have autonomy and agency. We will see that, after all, we are still in the driver seat, and we should want to hold control
  7. Simondon, the philosopher of technics who tried to explain the sense in which technical objects are individuals
  8. difference between human and machines NOT to reinforce distinction between natural and artificial …
  9. Wiener developed these ideas for cybernetics, but they are applicable to most technological objects and environments.
  10. Plenty of examples of technological determinism. E.g. digital technologies and future of jobs. Stress again, emphasis on humans not to reinforce natural/artificial, but to put the responsibility to humans.
  11. Being very visionary here. Imagining a different way to handle the whole process of technological design. Currently ethics committess and ethics clearance is a (weak) watchdog. Imagining a different future, in which different personas – scientists, technologist, philosopher, ethicists, legal scholars – are involved in the design and implementation process.