Designing a good life: A matrix for the technological mediation of morality

T.E. Swierstra, K. Waelbers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Technologies fulfill a social role in the sense that they influence the moral actions of people, often in unintended and unforeseen ways. Scientists and engineers are already accepting much responsibility for the technological, economical and environmental aspects of their work. This article asks them to take an extra step, and now also consider the social role of their products. The aim is to enable engineers to take a prospective responsibility for the future social roles of their technologies by providing them with a matrix that helps to explore in advance how emerging technologies might plausibly affect the reasons behind people's (moral) actions. On the horizontal axis of the matrix, we distinguished the three basic types of reasons that play a role in practical judgment: what is the case, what can be done and what should be done. On the vertical axis we distinguished the morally relevant classes of issues: stakeholders, consequences and the good life. To illustrate how this matrix may work in practice, the final section applies the matrix to the case of the Google PowerMeter.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)157-172
Number of pages16
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • Mediation
  • NEST ethics
  • Responsibility
  • Techno-moral change
  • Technology

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