Civic Virtue and Digital Technology

ABSTRACT “Civic Virtue and Digital Technology”:

Today, a major technological trend is the increasing focus on the person: technical systems personalize, customize, and tailor to the person in both beneficial and troubling ways. This trend has moved beyond the realm of commerce and has become a matter of public governance, where systems for citizen risk scoring, predictive policing, and social credit scores proliferate. What these systems have in common is that they may target the person and her ethical and political dispositions, her virtues. Virtue ethics is the most appropriate approach for evaluating the impacts of these new systems, which has translated in a revival of talk about virtue in technology ethics. Yet, the focus on individual dispositions has rightly been criticized for lacking a concern with the political collective and institutional structures. In this talk, I advocate for a new direction of research into civic virtue, which is situated in between personal dispositions and structures of governance. First, I survey the discourse on virtue ethics of technology, emphasizing its neglect of the political dimension of impacts of emerging technologies. Second, I present a pluralist conception of civic virtue that enables us to scrutinize the impact of technology on civic virtue on three different levels of reciprocal reputation building, the cultivation of internal goods, and excellence in the public sphere. Third, I illustrate the benefits of this conception by discussing some paradigmatic examples of emerging technologies that aim to cultivate civic virtue.

Short Bio of Wessel Reijers:

Wessel Reijers is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Media Studies, Paderborn University. Additionally, he holds visiting scholarships at the Technion and at the Robert Schuman Centre, European University Institute. He received a PhD in technology ethics from Dublin City University. Previously, he was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute, a Research Associate in the ERC project “BlockchainGov”, led by Dr. Primavera de Filippi, and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Vienna. Wessel’s current research explores the impacts of emerging technologies on citizenship, most notably coming from social credit systems. Additionally, he explores the nature of distributed governance, investigating its potential as well as its pitfalls. Wessel is the author of Narrative and Technology Ethics and co-editor of the edited volume Interpreting Technology. Apart from his research, Wessel likes to write fiction, make music, and make some paintings once in a while.

Short Bio of Erich Prem:

DDr. Erich Prem is chief RTI strategy advisor and CEO of eutema GmbH. He is an internationally renowned expert in research and innovation strategy with more than two decades of work experience in research and innovation management and RTDI policy. Erich Prem is a certified managerial economist and works scientifically in artificial intelligence, research politics, innovation research and epistemology. He published more than 70 scientific papers and was a guest researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his Dr. phil. (epistemology) from the University of Vienna, his Dr.tech. from TU Vienna where he also completed his master’s in computer science (Dipl.Ing). He was a lecturer at TU Vienna’s Informatics Innovation Center. He received his MBA in General Management from Donau University.