2.2 Emotions, Values & Decision-Making

Course subject(s) 2. Institutions and Values

As you have seen, risks arising from technologies raise important ethical issues for people living in the 21st century. Although technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, ICT, and/or nuclear energy can potentially improve human well-being, they come with serious risks. Consider the possibility and disastrous consequences of accidents, pollution, occupational safety or even environmental damage. Due to the subjective perception of such risks, such controversial technologies can trigger strong (negative) emotions, including fear and indignation, which often leads to conflicts between experts and laypeople.

Emotions are generally seen to be an annoyance in debates about risky technologies, because they seem irrational and immune to factual information.  However, Sabine Roeser will argue that emotions can be a source of practical rationality. Natural emotions like fear, sympathy and compassion help to grasp morally salient features of risky technologies, such as fairness, justice, equity and/or autonomy that might be overlooked in conventional, technocratic approaches to risk.

Emotions should be taken seriously in debates about risky technologies. This will lead to a more balanced debate in which all parties are taken seriously, which in turn signals that all sides are willing to listen to each other and give-and-take. This is needed in order to come to well-grounded policies on how to deal with risky technologies, and more importantly, broad acceptance of said policies.

Not yet convinced? You will probably be after this web lecture!

As bonus material, we have also included a link to  Sabine’s presentation during a TEDx conference in Delft in 2011 (note: this video is not downloadable).

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Subtitles (captions) in other languages than provided can be viewed at YouTube. Select your language in the CC-button of YouTube.

Bonus video Sabine at TEDxDelft:

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Responsible Innovation by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://ocw.tudelft.nl/courses/responsible-innovation/.
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