PhD project on emerging technologies and the moral character of the human being

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: 01 Jun 2021

The PhD candidate is expected to write a dissertation at the intersection of philosophical anthropology, philosophy of human-technology relations, and ethics. Emerging technologies result in new types of human-technology relations. Rather than being ‘used’, they bring configurations as ‘immersion’ (Internet-of-Things), ‘fusion’ (implants), ‘augmentation’ (augmented reality), ‘telepresence’ (robotics and digital media), and ‘co-operation’ (artificial intelligence). These new human-technology relations affect the moral character of the human being in several ways. Artificial agents help to shape moral decision-making: expert systems advise doctors about the resuscitation of coma patients, and autonomous vehicles make decisions about life and death. Behavior-influencing technologies like e-coaching apps and interactive cyber-physical environments affect the moral development of human beings. Augmented reality technologies affect moral engagement, moral interpretations, and compassion, and may shift our moral intuitions. Biomedical technologies and implants blur the boundaries between the human and the artificial, which affects the status of the ‘human being’ and the ‘humane’ as moral concepts.

This PhD project investigates how emerging technologies affect the moral character of the human being, by connecting philosophical analysis of human-technology relations to ethics, in close relation to one or more concrete technologies or technological developments. Applicants are invited to submit a research idea that positions itself in this domain, connecting for instance to themes like: the status of the ‘humane’ as a normative concept; the technological mediation of moral development; normalizations of ‘the human’ in technological developments; technologically mediated moral engagement and empathy; the relations between artificial agency and moral agency. Proposals should include explicit references to (a) theories of human-technology relations; (b) ethical approaches (e.g. virtue ethics, feminist ethics, Confucian ethics, etc.); (c) concrete examples of emerging and ‘ethically disruptive’ technologies.

The prospective PhD candidate is expected to perform high quality and internationally visible research with publications in peer-reviewed journals. The candidate will be supervised by Dr. Julia Hermann (Philosophy Department, University of Twente), Prof. dr. ir. Peter-Paul Verbeek (Philosophy Department, University of Twente) and Prof. dr. Wijnand IJsselsteijn (Human Technology Interaction Group, Eindhoven University of Technology). The candidate will be appointed for a period of four years.

The research programme
This PhD position will be part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme (, a new ten year long international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands that has started in January 2020. This programme has a combined budget of € 27 million and is funded by the Netherlands

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