Technology and the Ethical Imagination
A new partnership between the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Tech Museum of Innovation will help people identify and respond to ethical questions presented by technology.
A collaboration between the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University and The Tech Museum of Innovation kicks off February 11 at 11 a.m. at The Tech with an installation exploring ethics in biodesign and a talk at 12:00 p.m. by author and biomedical gerontologist Aubrey de Grey. De Grey will address the question, “Can We Use Technology to Live Forever—and Should We?” with a response from Brian Green, who teaches engineering ethics at SCU. Center Executive Director Kirk Hanson and Tech President and CEO Tim Ritchie will detail the elements of the partnership, called “Technology and the Ethical Imagination.”
The partnership helps people identify and respond to the ethical questions presented by technology. “Our community – Silicon Valley – needs forums for steering straight into the ethical dilemmas created by the technologies this region develops,” says Ritchie. “This unique partnership allows us to create a space for probing conversations about how technology can support the common good,” adds Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson.
The program launch focuses on The Tech’s BioDesign Studio, an exhibit where visitors explore the intersection between technology and biology. It introduces visitors to the fundamentals of living systems, engaging them in hands-on experiences that encourage them to explore, tinker and design with biology. They also engage ethical issues as they work with real biological materials and tools in a pioneering public makerspace for biology.
Museum visitors will also have an opportunity to help create an installation on ethical issues. The String Project allows visitors to weave colored threads around their answers to questions such as “Who should be able to tinker with biology?” and “Would you agree to wiping out all disease-causing mosquitoes?” The resulting artwork will hang in the BioDesign Studio.
In addition, classes visiting The Tech on field trips can participate in hands-on experiences related to the exhibit. Curricular materials and further reading explore both the scientific and ethical issues in biodesign.
This combination of activities—installations, events, and curricular materials—will continue to characterize Ethics Center-Tech partnership. The Center has also developed educational resources on ethics in cybersecurity and in artificial intelligence, which are available on the websites of both institutions. The Ethics Center The Tech
Long term, the two organizations are beginning plans for an ethics component in the museum’s next major exhibit, on technology and the environment. The Ethics Center will also train Tech volunteers on how to talk with visitors about the ethical dilemmas that may arise out of new technologies.
This project is made possible through the generous support of Charmaine and Dan Warmenhoven.