31 Mar 2010   |   Network Updates

TU Delft: new book highlights how philosophy of technology contributes to design

The first volume in a new series of books on the Philosophy of Technology and Engineering to be launched at TU Delft today, Thursday, 1 April, highlights the contribution philosophers of technology can make to dealing with sensitive human aspects of technology.

The philosophy of technology is a relatively unknown but important field of research in which Dutch researchers, including many at TU Delft, play a leading role.

Technologies that have to do with individual privacy, such as electronic medical records, are often the subject of heated public and political debate. Philosophers of technology can play an enlightening role when it comes to sensitive issues that have a highly technical component, according to TU Delft Professor Jeroen van den Hoven.

“Seemingly insurmountable problems can be made clear and simple by unravelling the various interests and factors at play. In the case of electronic medical records, for example, this means thoroughly analysing all parties involved and all kinds of data, and then determining who has a valid reason to gain access to which information,” says van den Hoven.

“By doing so, the major debate on whether ‘electronic medical records threaten privacy’ can be reduced to simpler, more tangible questions such as ‘should my pharmacist be allowed to consult my chest x-rays’”, van den Hoven says.

There is an increasing recognition of the value of the philosophical approach to technology, when it comes to sensitive issues such as electronic medical records. “Whereas the philosophy of technology was practically unknown as a field of research just fifteen years ago, today it is part of every design process,” says Dr Pieter Vermaas of TU Delft, one of the originators of the Philosophy of Technology and Engineering book series.

The first volume of the new series, entitled Philosophy and Engineering: An emerging agenda, will be launched at the KIVI NIRIA, the Dutch association for engineers and engineering students today.

The book sets the agenda for the philosophy of technology, providing an initial characterisation of this important new field.

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