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Technoethics

TECHNOETHICS

Technoethics is a term coined in 1974 by the Argentinian-Canadian philosopher Mario Bunge to denote the special responsibilities of technologists and engineers to develop ethics as a branch of technology. However, in 1971 the chemical engineer and theologian Norman Faramelli had used a word of only one less letter, technethics, to argue for a general ethics of technology from a Christian theological perspective. In 1973 the Britannica Book of the Year defined the same term, without referencing Faramelli, as indicating "the responsible use of science, technology and ethics in a society shaped by technology."

Bunge's use is the more significant and radical. For Bunge engineers and managers, because of their enhanced powers, acquire increased moral and social responsibilities. To meet these responsibilities they cannot rely on traditional moral theory; since moral theory itself is underdeveloped having "ignored the special problems posed by science and technology" (Bunge 1977, p. 101). Instead, engineers must adapt science and technology, tools that are foreign to most philosophers, to construct a new theory of morality.

According to Bunge, rational moral rules have exactly the same structure as technological rules. Technological rules come in two types: ungrounded and grounded. Ungrounded technological rules either are irrational or are based on empirical evidence that has not been systematized. Grounded technological rules are based on science. According to an earlier argument, Bunge (1967) sees technology as being constituted by scientific theories of action. Modern technology develops when the rules of prescientific crafts, which are based on trial-and-error learning, are replaced by the scientifically "grounded rules" of technological theories.

During the late 1990s and the early 2000s the term technoethics, especially in Spanish and Italian cognates, appeared anew in an effort to parallel another coinage from the 1970s: bioethics. However, the prefix techno has connotations that are at odds with bio, which references life and its nuances. Ethics is a living field. Techno denotes the hard-edged and loud, as in technomusic, technoart, and technoeconomics. Given these uses, technoethics fails to connote as readily the broad concerns that have been easy to include in bioethics. Indeed, Bunge's use of the term seems more appropriate.

In the preparation of the Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics there was some initial debate about making it an "Encyclopedia of Technoethics." The conclusion, however, was that such an alternative would have been inadequate in building bridges between a number of applied ethics fields ranging from computer and engineering ethics to research and environmental ethics, including history, literature, and philosophy along the way. The expansive if less catchy title Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics defines in a more inclusive way the scope of a reference work that should appeal to scholars; professionals in the sciences, engineering, and the humanities; and general readers.


CARL MITCHAM

SEE ALSO Chinese Perspectives; Science, Technology, and Society Studies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bunge, Mario. (1967). Scientific Research II: The Search for Truth. New York: Springer. See especially the chapter titled "Action," pp. 121–150.

Bunge, Mario. (1977). "Towards a Technoethics," Monist 60(1): 96–107. This is the first publication of a paper presented at the International Symposium on Ethics in an Age of Pervasive Technology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, December 21–25, 1974, with abridged proceedings published in Melvin Kransberg, ed., Ethics in an Age of Pervasive Technology, Boulder, CO: Westview, 1980.

Esquirol, Josep M., ed. (2002). Tecnología, Ética y Futuro: Actas del I Congreso Internacional de Tecnoética. Bilbao, Spain: Editorial Desclée de Brouwer.

Esquirol, Josep M., ed. (2003). Tecnoética: Actas del II Congreso Internacional de Tecnoética. Barcelona: Publicaciones Universitat de Barcelona.

Faramelli, Norman J. (1971). Technethics: Christian Mission in an Age of Technology. New York: Friendship Press.

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