Anticipating the interaction between technology and morality: a scenario study of experimenting with humans in bionanotechnology

M. Boenink, T.E. Swierstra, D. Stemerding

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

127 Citations (Scopus)


During the last decades several tools have been developed to anticipate the future impact of new and emerging technologies. Many of these focus on ‘hard,’ quantifiable impacts, investigating how novel technologies may affect health, environment and safety. Much less attention is paid to what might be called ‘soft’ impacts: the way technology influences, for example, the distribution of social roles and responsibilities, moral norms and values, or identities. Several types of technology assessment and of scenario studies can be used to anticipate such soft impacts. We argue, however, that these methods do not recognize the dynamic character of morality and its interaction with technology. As a result, they miss an important opportunity to broaden the scope of social and political deliberation on new and emerging technologies. In this paper we outline a framework for building scenarios that enhance the techno-moral imagination by anticipating how technology, morality and their interaction might evolve. To show what kind of product might result from this framework, a scenario is presented as an exemplar. This scenario focuses on developments in biomedical nanotechnology and the moral regime of experimenting with human beings. Finally, the merits and limitations of our framework and the resulting type of scenarios are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-38
Number of pages38
JournalStudies in Ethics, Law, and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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  • Nanotechnologie

    Doorenbos, C.

    01/01/2003 → …

    Project: Research

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