Technology and Ethics

Since technical improvements have been accompanied by appropriate philosophical analyses that include new approaches to the function of values in general, and ethical values in particular, the most recent descriptions of technology entail its acceptance as value-laden rather than value-neutral. Internal values influence technology's aims, procedures, and outputs. Engineers frequently regard internal values as inherent to engineering technology and its practice.

These values include technical passion, effectiveness, efficiency, dependability, robustness, maintainability, and reason. External values are technology impacts that occur outside the scope of engineering practice. External values include social, cultural, economic, and environmental factors.

Different Ethical Theories in Technology

By considering the ethical implications of emerging technologies, we can ensure that they are created and applied in a way that safeguards people's rights and privacy. By approaching it ethically, we can promote technological innovation that is good for society and the environment. Ethics in technology contributes to a more just and equitable society by ensuring that the positive effects of new technologies are maximized while limiting any potential negative effects.

The Rights Perspective

From a right-based approach, ethics in technology is about ensuring people's freedoms and rights are upheld and protected in the creation and application of technology. As part of this, basic human rights like the right to privacy, freedom of speech, and non-discrimination must be acknowledged and upheld. When rights, principles, or obligations conflict, it poses a unique set of problems since it is hard to uphold one moral ideal without violating another or to meet our obligations to one stakeholder without upholding our obligations to another. When "no-win" scenarios (sometimes referred to as "wicked" moral situations") arise, we must decide which rights, principles, and obligations have the greatest ethical weight in that circumstance and come up with a solution that minimizes the ethical breach. Thus, the rights approach is not a straightforward moral checklist that can be used mechanically; rather, it still demands rigorous ethical deliberation and judgment to be used successfully.

The Care Ethics Perspective

This perspective advocates adopting a comprehensive picture of how technology affects people and society while emphasizing the value of empathy, compassion, and interdependence. Care ethics focuses mostly on relationships between those who care for and those who are cared for rather than either individuals or communities (though the caring may be reciprocal, as well). Care ethics emphasizes the significance of the relational context of an ethical decision rather than general ethical principles and emphasizes the moral value of interdependence rather than autonomy. Care ethicists have argued that emphasizing abstract, high-level concepts may overlook the importance of embodiment and emotion in judging what is morally appropriate to do in a given situation. Additionally, they have argued that the care ethics approach emphasizes empathy and compassion more than it does the (impossible) objective of total impartiality.

The Justice/Fairness Perspective

From the standpoint of justice, technology ethics aims to ensure the equitable distribution of advantages and disadvantages associated with technology. This strategy emphasizes the significance of addressing issues of power, privilege, and oppression in the creation and application of technology. According to philosophers, justice necessitates considering factors like need, contribution, and the overall effects of social structure on both people and communities as part of our analysis. Additionally, impartiality and avoiding conflicts of interest are necessary for justice and fairness.

The Utilitarian Perspective

According to a utilitarian viewpoint, technological ethics should aim to minimize harm to as many people as possible while maximizing overall well-being. This method frequently uses a cost-benefit analysis to determine the moral value of a technology. It assesses the moral value of an action based on the consequences of that action. Many engineers find utilitarianism appealing because, in theory, it suggests that it is possible to quantify ethical analysis and choose the best result. In actuality, however, this is frequently an implausible or "wicked" calculation because the impacts of technology tend to extend out endlessly in time (should we never have invented the gasoline engine, or plastic, given the now catastrophic repercussions of these technologies for the planetary environment and its inhabitants?); and across populations (will the development of social media platforms turn out to be a net positive or negative for humanity, if we take into account); Utilitarian ethics is a morally challenging standard since it calls for taking into account both long-term and unexpected repercussions as well as the welfare of all impacted stakeholders, including those who are relatively far away from us.

The Virtue Ethics Perspective

According to a virtue ethics approach, technology ethics ensures that those involved in its production and usage possess and put those virtues into practice. The goal of virtue ethics is to strengthen moral character, emphasizing how crucial it is for individuals and institutions to uphold virtue to make moral decisions. The virtue ethical framework is more challenging to summarize than the other ethical systems. In essence, virtue ethics acknowledges the incompleteness of moral laws or precepts and the need for individuals with well-cultivated, realistically competent moral judgment to fill the gap.

The Common Good Perspective

Instead of emphasizing the aggregate welfare/happiness of individuals, as utilitarianism does, another way to think ethically is to focus on the common good, which emphasizes shared social structures, communities, and relationships. Although minor, the contrast is significant. Utilitarians consider potential harms or gains to specific persons before summing them up to calculate the overall societal impact. On the other hand, the common good lens is concerned with how practice affects the health and well-being of communities or groups of individuals, encompassing all of humanity as a whole and as functional units.

Welfare, as defined here, encompasses more than just happiness; it also considers factors like political and public health, security, freedom, sustainability, education, and other qualities regarded as essential to a thriving local economy. Thus, a technological advancement that would appear to satisfy a utilitarian by making most people happy personally (for example, through neurochemical intervention) may not pass the common good test if the outcome resulted in a loss of community life and health (for example, if those people spent their lives detached from others—like addicts drifting in a technologically-induced state of personal euphoria).

Need of Ethics in the Domain of Technology

We have seen how technology's goals, procedures, and outcomes have real-world ramifications for individuals, markets, and organizations. The answer is simple: technology is geared toward the creative alteration of reality. As a result, its design seeks to alter current reality (natural, social, or artificial) to achieve new results. When the product is an artifact (airplane, vehicle, computer, cell phone, tablet, etc.), it can directly impact the lives of people in society. These changes may benefit societal progress or decrease residents' well-being. External values can play a role in the three major technological activity stages.

  • They can intervene in design because technology employs scientific knowledge (know that), specialized technological knowledge (know how), and evaluative knowledge (know whether). Thus, technology may incorporate external values (social, economic, ecological, and so on) into its design. Many technical advances (smartphones, tablets, huge aircraft, etc.) demonstrate this "external" responsibility since they must consider the product's customers as well as the potential economic success of the new artifact.

  • Technological processes are created in public or private companies that are socially structured around certain ideals (economic, cultural, political, etc.) and have an institutional framework (owners, administrators, etc.)

  • The result of technology is a human-made object (often an artifact) for societal use, with an economic appraisal through markets and organizations. Thus, as technology is ontologically social as human action, it may be judged in terms of societal ideals. Furthermore, its product is frequently a societal object (even in the case of nature-related technology, such as a tunnel). Furthermore, societal conditions significantly impact supporting technological advances (via patents) or alternative technologies (with a new design, processes, and product).

Technology is sometimes viewed with worry from the standpoint of external values, particularly in the case of contemporary developments (e.g., nuclear energy catastrophes, the usage of biotechnology with humans, nano-technological concerns, or the perils of emerging technologies such as hydraulic fracturing). When philosophy asks for the bounds or ceiling of technology, these external values greatly influence the contemplation of the limitations of technology.

This examination of terminal technological limitations should consider internal and exterior values (social, cultural, political, ecological, artistic, economic, and so on). In this approach, the philosophy of technology addresses external values in the framework of a democratic society concerned with the well-being of its citizens, believing that its members may participate in decision-making (e.g., through organizations or members of parliament).

The study of technological boundaries encompasses the forecast of what technology can do in the future and the prescription of what should be done based on specific ideals. This prescriptive dimension of technology's external values becomes more apparent when significant societal hazards are at stake, either now or in the future. Behind the investigation of values in technology, there are frequently some important philosophical perspectives about what technology is and should be.


As technology develops, ethical dilemmas and difficulties appear. Examples include issues with personal data privacy, the effects of AI on the workforce and society, and the application of technology in conflict. In order to ensure that new technologies are used responsibly and ethically, it is crucial for individuals, organizations, and governments to think about the ethical implications of these technologies and to adopt rules and policies.