Trust in technological systems

In M. J. de Vries, S. O. Hansson & A. W. M. Meijers (eds.), Norms in technology: Philosophy of Engineering and Technology, Vol. 9. Springer (2013)
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Technology is a practically indispensible means for satisfying one’s basic interests in all central areas of human life including nutrition, habitation, health care, entertainment, transportation, and social interaction. It is impossible for any one person, even a well-trained scientist or engineer, to know enough about how technology works in these different areas to make a calculated choice about whether to rely on the vast majority of the technologies she/he in fact relies upon. Yet, there are substantial risks, uncertainties, and unforeseen practical consequences associated with the use of technological artifacts and systems. The salience of technological failure (both catastrophic and mundane), as well as technology’s sometimes unforeseeable influence on our behavior, makes it relevant to wonder whether we are really justified as individuals in our practical reliance on technology. Of course, even if we are not justified, we might nonetheless continue in our technological reliance, since the alternatives might not be attractive or feasible. In this chapter I argue that a conception of trust in technological artifacts and systems is plausible and helps us understand what is at stake philosophically in our reliance on technology. Such an account also helps us understand the relationship between trust and technological risk and the ethical obligations of those who design, manufacture, and deploy technological artifacts.

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Philip J. Nickel
Eindhoven University of Technology


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