Workshop: toolkit for MVI issues in the high tech
Where do you start when you want to explore possible ethical and societal issues arising from your innovation? During a workshop organised by TKI HTSM and NWO-MVI on 30 November 2017, Peter-Paul Verbeek and Nico Nijenhuis presented the toolkit they developed to tackle this problem.
‘In a joint NWO Responsible Innovation project between Twente University, UAV International and Clear Flight Solutions we developed this tool to think through the ethical and societal aspects of drone technology,’ explains Peter-Paul Verbeek, professor of Philosophy of Technology and co-director of the DesignLab of the University of Twente. ‘We think this might be useful for other technologies as well.’ Together with Nico Nijenhuis, CEO at Clear Flight Solutions, he guided the audience through the tool and offered the participants the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the test case of using birdlike drones to catch poachers in African wildlife parks.
Participants in the workshop each have their own reason to attend. Andrew Hall, advisor at BeteoR: ‘Our organisation advises clients about change management. Since Responsible Innovation is an upcoming field, it is good for us to keep pace with the latest developments.’ Benno Aalderink, senior applied research engineer at Demcon Advanced Mechatronics: ‘We want to focus more on Corporate Social Responsibility. I am looking for ways to do this in a structured way.’
Nico Nijenhuis explains there can be different reasons for a company to want to invest time and money into responsible innovation. ‘When you are proactive and anticipate on the public perception of a technology, you can increase the chance that your product will be successful and socially accepted. But also it can be good for your company to improve your position in society when you show that you are thinking about possible implications for society and environment, and try to optimize them.’
The tool consists of three different steps, each containing a list of questions to be answered, Peter-Paul Verbeek explains. ‘We start with mediation, which is a way of analysing the impact of the technology. What does the technology do? Who is influenced by it, and in what way? The next step is to carry out a risk analysis that leads to an evaluation of the ethical aspects. What is the impact on different values like privacy? Will the technology impose a threat for social or religious values? And the third step is to think about the impact of and on existing and future legislation.’
The audience certainly sees the potential of the toolkit. Andrew Hall: ‘For me, a useful toolbox should be more compact and to the point, but this is a nice beginning.’ Benno Aalderink: ‘This toolbox can certainly be useful, but it needs some tweaking before it is applicable for the projects we are working on. For me, it could be more general, and easier to use.’ Carlo van Pelt (TechAlive! Marketing) has a suggestion: ‘Indeed, the current toolbox seems rather comprehensive to me. Perhaps it is a good idea to make a quick scan version of it.’ Peter-Paul Verbeek welcomes this idea, and says he will look into the possibilities.
Where to find the tool?
Ton Vermeulen (Stichting Maatschappelijk Ondernemen) asks the only question left: ‘If you are interested in using this toolbox, where can you get it?’ Nico Nijenhuis answers: ‘Contact either Peter-Paul or myself. We are planning on organising more of these workshops through the Designlab of Twente University in the space53 programme.’