Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Do Artifacts Have Ethics?

Dec 17, 2022

"Years ago," writes L.M. Sacasas, "Langdon Winner famously asked, 'Do artifacts have politics?' In the article that bears that title, Winner went on to argue that they most certainly do. We might also ask, 'Do artifacts have ethics?' I would argue that they do indeed." This is why can't say things like "it's not about the technology". As Winner writes, "Taking the most obvious example, the atom bomb is an inherently political artifact." I don't personally think that artifacts are the sort of things that can have ethics, but I would certainly agree that an artifact can have ethical implications, as instanced in the example, "What sort of person will the use of this technology make of me?" or "What possibilities for action does this technology foreclose? Is it good that these actions are no longer possible?"

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Dec 05, 2023 5:22 p.m.

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