Future value change: identifying realistic possibilities and risks

Prometheus (forthcoming)
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The co-shaping of technology and values is a topic of increasing interest among philosophers of technology. Part of this interest pertains to anticipating future value change, or what Danaher (2021) calls the investigation of “axiological futurism”. However, this investigation faces a challenge: “axiological possibility space” is vast, and we currently lack a clear account of how this space should be demarcated. It stands to reason that speculations about how values might change over time should exclude farfetched possibilities and be restricted to possibilities that can be dubbed to be realistic instead. But what does this realism criterion entail? This paper introduces the notion of realistic possibilities as a key conceptual advancement to the study of axiological futurism and offers suggestions as to how realistic possibilities of future value change might be identified. Additionally, I propose two slight modifications to the approach of axiological futurism. First, I argue that axiological futurism can benefit from a thoroughly historicised understanding of moral change. Secondly, I argue that when employed in normative contexts, the axiological futurist should seek to identify realistic possibilities that come along with substantial normative risks.

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Jeroen Hopster
Utrecht University


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