Responsible Innovation: Ethics, Safety and Technology
Joost Groot Kormelink, TU Delft
Copyright Year: 2019
ISBN 13: 978-94-6366-202-4
Publisher: TU Delft Open
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Given the topic and title of the book, the book addresses the issues of responsible innovation thoroughly. It is based on a MOOC and there is clear structure that drives it towards its target of the specific ethical and business process issues... read more
Given the topic and title of the book, the book addresses the issues of responsible innovation thoroughly. It is based on a MOOC and there is clear structure that drives it towards its target of the specific ethical and business process issues related to technological innovation.
This book is well-researched. It includes high quality linked articles to background information and cases that are referenced. I've read and taught ethics related to big data and transhumanism and found information related to these topics to be current, relevant, and accurate.
Any book written on technology will have a necessarily short time-span before its cases, data, and charts may need updating. Yet, this book chooses foundational issues and case-study examples that will persist as applicable to new situations. It primarily focuses on the ethics and processes of evaluating risk and values in efforts to provide responsible innovation, so the book does not end up offering overly present or temporary guidance, proposals, and suggestions. It should work for several years of teaching a course before needing an updated edition or becoming out of date.
The prose is accessible. There is a lot of philosophical, technical, and business jargon, but there is also appropriate context explanation and useful links to the sources of specific models, concepts, and terms related to risk assessment and development processes. I rate this at four, primarily for the shear volume of technical jargon, but I don't think this book could be written without it--but for someone completely new to the field of technology ethics, the amount of jargon could be a challenge. I will say that the first two chapters and the concluding chapter are much more accessible to general ethics course contexts.
The book reads well as being cohesive and tracking its own logic. It does not read like a collection of random chapters, though each chapter has its own clear issue/topic.
The introduction, chapters 1-2, and 9 all work really well as individual units that could be assigned as one-off readings in ethics, business, engineering, or computer science courses where topics relate. The case-studies (there are 11) are clearly marked with colored boxes and can be used on their own also. The middle portions of the book are distinct, but would likely need some of the set-up of the introduction and first two chapters. There is also a very helpful closing summary that can help an instructor plan out which chapter to assign for particular topical syllabi.
The flow of the book is clear and makes sense. There is a helpful summary at the end and clear section headings. When referring to previous or future sections, there are clear indications of where a reader might turn to clarify context or jump ahead to read more about a particular model or topic.
I started to wonder about the resolution of some of the charts, but to cover its bases, there are links in the appendices to make sure readers can access the respective figures and charts in context. I had no trouble navigating through the sections of the book in a standard pdf reader.
I am placing formatting and copy-editing in this category since there isn't a section in this review form specifically addressing these topics. The book is generally grammatically correct (though a few sentences fail to complete themselves). I started a list of typos and formatting inconsistencies (like line spacing between paragraphs), but they became frequent enough that I decided to just say there are many. It does not meet the expectations I have of textbooks for thorough copy-editing.
The context is clearly the EU, but discussion of other parts of the world are appropriate.
I find this book helpful and plan to incorporate at least parts of it into ethics courses I teach to undergraduates because of its relevance for students studying engineering, cybersecurity, national security, and business.
Lack of comprehensiveness is this text’s biggest weakness. To cite several examples, the text begins with morality, implying that morality is the foundation of RRI whereas many would center RRI’s concerns either around diverse values or around... read more
Lack of comprehensiveness is this text’s biggest weakness. To cite several examples, the text begins with morality, implying that morality is the foundation of RRI whereas many would center RRI’s concerns either around diverse values or around risk. The chapter on innovation employs one of many taxonomies of innovation, where students might be better served by presenting a variety of ways of conceptualizing innovation. The section on implementing RRI again focuses on one of many, many approaches, and the chosen approach directly conflicts with some others in terms of identifying social acceptability as a central goal in what is, overall, ultimately a technosolutionist framework. The orientation of the last several chapters is likely to be most helpful for social scientists working with industry and/or a corporate audience (less helpful for those working in academia), while the beginning of the text sidesteps political issues that social scientists working with industry are likely to encounter. The text also has no index and no glossary; both would be helpful.
While I would not go so far as to say that this text contains inaccuracies, it does approach RRI from one of several possible and reasonable perspectives with little to no acknowledgement of the others. That limited perspective sometimes leads to statements, presented as facts, with which many other experts in the field may disagree. Few social science experts in RRI whom I know, for instance, would assert that RRI is entirely or even mostly about morality (the focus of the first X chapters), nor would most agree with the author’s assertion that social scientists disparage laypeople’s emotional judgement-making. The examples presented early in the text also suggest that RRI is chiefly concerned with situations in which everyone wants to serve the public good but the route toward the public good may not be clear, side-stepping many of the most pressing political and economic considerations that often govern RRI conversations. I would not employ this text in my teaching for these reasons.
The text does well to create a foundation in ethics and morality that won’t rapidly become out-of-date even in a fast-developing area, though the particular strategies for implementation that it suggests have already evolved such that the book does not encompass the state-of-the-art of the field. Given that the examples need to be about emerging technologies, they are well-chosen to avoid dating too quickly.
Clarity is this text’s greatest strength. The prose is clear, easy to read, and organized logically.
The text is internally consistent.
This text is divided into very short, very manageable chunks that, though they build well on each other, would be easy to use independently. Later chapters do rely on previous chapters in ways that may require a bit of extra scaffolding if used on their own.
The text is well-organized, though the choice of organizational structure as well as which topics deserve their own chapters participate in this text's serious limitations in comprehensiveness.
The interface is excellent in being easy to use, though an index would be helpful.
The text is grammatical with few typos.
While the examples employed are likely to be understandable across cultural contexts, substantive examples are mostly derived from Western and/or northern European contexts. The vision of values and morality on which the text’s framework is predicated is decidedly Western. RRI has developed in northern Europe and the text appropriately grounds itself in EU-centric developments, but not everyone may share the values framework that the text presents. The text does a poor job of accounting for other values systems or perspectives on social norms and obligations.
Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction to responsible innovation
- 2. Applied ethics for responsible innovation
- 3. Institutional context of innovations
- 4. Innovation and business
- 5. Frugal innovation
- 6. Implementation of RI by companies: new standard
- 7. Understanding risk
- 8. Risk management and safety engineering
- 9. Value Sensitive Design
About the Book
This textbook is based on the MOOC Responsible Innovation offered by the TU Delft. It provides a framework to reflect on the ethics and risks of new technologies. How can we make sure that innovations do justice to social and ethical values? How can we minimize (unknown)risks?
The book explains:
- The concept and importance of responsible innovation for society
- Key ethical concepts and considerations to analyse the risks of new technologies
- Different types of innovation (e.g. radical, niche, incremental, frugal)
- Roadmap for Responsible Innovation by Industry
- The concept of Value Sensitive Design (VSD)
It includes a link to all the web lectures as well as case studies ranging from care robots and nuclear energy to Artificial Intelligence and self-driving vehicles.
About the Contributors
Joost Groot Kormelink is manager Open and Online Education at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management and responsible for offering MOOCs in the field of Responsible Innovation for various target groups. Joost is also involved in international projects focusing on the risks and societal impact of new technologies and secretary of the Human Research Ethics Committee of the TU Delft.