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Accepted Paper:

Mediation, models, and simulations in philosophy of technology and their ethical implications  
Florian Richter (Technical University Ingolstadt of Applied Sciences)

Short abstract:

Technology mediates our access to the world. However, the complexity and opaqueness of AI-based systems, as well as higher forms of automatization and autonomization of systems, pose new risks that require another approach in technology ethics that considers the role of models and simulations.

Long abstract:

Technology is sometimes defined as an amount or system of connected artifacts. (Ropohl, 2010, p. 42), (VDI, 2000, p. 2) This usually entails an instrumental reduction of artifacts serving as tools to achieve goals set by humans. (Pitt, 2014) To address these reductionist views, various approaches have been proposed in recent decades, such as ideas that stem from Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language (Coeckelbergh, 2019), postphenomenological approaches (Don Ihde and Peter-Paul Verbeek), dialectical approaches (Hubig, 2006) or lines of thought that emerged from Technology Assessment. (Grunwald & Julliard, 2005, p. 127) All approaches have in common that technology mediates in a certain way our access to the world and to us. (This explains presumably also the intricate relation of philosophy of technology with anthropological statements like e.g., that we are “deficient beings” (Arnold Gehlen).)

Each form of mediation entails a certain ethical viewpoint on technology. From an instrumentalist perspective, artifacts appear just as means and are value-neutral or -free. (Pitt, 2014) From a postphenomenological perspective, technology appears to be shaping our access to the world. Consequently, technology is imbued with values. (van de Poel & Verbeek, 2014) Despite the convincing arguments that both approaches present, it can be doubted that they adequately grasp the challenges of technology ethics. Technological systems are much more complex than tools like guns or hammers. Some systems are highly automated and act partly autonomously (like self-driving cars). Additionally, there are systems that have a high depth of engagement into the human (e.g., chips implanted into the brain). For instance, self-driving cars operate within a complex system and interact with humans (pedestrians, human drivers). Research in this field is based, for example, on game-theoretic models and empirical investigations. (Gogoll & Müller, 2017), (Karpus, Krüger, Tovar Verba, Bahrami, & Deroy, 2021), (Krügel & Uhl) Models and simulations mediate our understanding of such technological systems. Hence, it is argued that models and simulations need to play a more crucial role in technology ethics to adequately grasp the challenges of new technologies.

The talk makes four contributions. First, approaches in the philosophy of technology are systematized regarding how they conceptualize technology as mediating access to the world. Second, the ethical implications of the different conceptualizations are analyzed. Third, the problematic issues of each conceptualization are discussed with regard to the challenges of technology ethics. In the end, an approach to technology ethics is proposed that stems rather from a philosophy of science perspective.


Coeckelbergh, M. (2019). Moved by Machines: Performance Metaphors and Philosophy of Technology. New York.

Gogoll, J., & Müller, J. (2017). Autonomous Cars: In Favor of a Mandatory Ethics Setting. Sci Eng Ethics, 23(3), pp. 681-700.

Grunwald, A., & Julliard, Y. (2005). Technik als Reflexionsbegriff: Überlegungen zur semantischen Struktur des Redens über Technik. Philosophia naturalis(42), pp. 127-157.

Hubig, C. (2006). Die Kunst des Möglichen I: Technikphilosophie als Reflexion der Medialität. Bielefeld.

Karpus, J., Krüger, A., Tovar Verba, J., Bahrami, B., & Deroy, O. (2021). Algorithm exploitation: Humans are keen to exploit benevolent AI. iScience, 24(6), pp. 1-16.

Krügel, S., & Uhl, M. (n.d.). Autonomous vehicles and moral judgments under risk. Transportation research part A: policy and practice, 155, pp. 1-10.

Pitt, J. C. (2014). “Guns Don’t Kill, People Kill”; Values in and/or Around Technologies. In Kroes, Peter, & P.-P. Verbeek (Eds.), The Moral Status of Technical Artefacts. Philosophy of Engineering and Technology (Vol. 17, pp. 89–101). Dordrecht.

Ropohl, G. (2010). Technikbegriffe zwischen Äquivokation und Reflexion. In G. Banse, & A. Grunwald (Eds.), Technik und Kultur: Bedingungs- und Beeinflussungsverhältnisse (pp. 41-54). Karlsruhe.

van de Poel, I., & Verbeek, P.-P. (2014). Can technology embody values? In P. Kroes, & P.-P. Verbeek (Eds.), The Moral Status of Technical Artefacts. Philosophy of Engineering and Technology (Vol. 17, pp. 103-124). Heidelberg/New York/London.

VDI. (2000). Richtlinie 3780: Technikbewertung, Begriffe und Grundlagen . Berlin.

Verbeek, P.-P. (2015, May - June). Beyond interaction: a short introduction to mediation theory. Interactions, 22(3), pp. 26–31.

Traditional Open Panel P250
Understanding and interpreting technology in STS and Philosophy of Technology
  Session 1 Friday 19 July, 2024, -