Books  |  ,   |  September 19, 2016

Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting

Book by Shannon Vallor. 
Published by Oxford University Press. 
328 pages. 

The 21st century offers a dizzying array of new technological developments: robots smart enough to take white collar jobs, social media tools that manage our most important relationships, ordinary objects that track, record, analyze and share every detail of our daily lives, and biomedical techniques with the potential to transform and enhance human minds and bodies to an unprecedented degree.

Emerging technologies are reshaping our habits, practices, institutions, cultures and environments in increasingly rapid, complex and unpredictable ways that create profound risks and opportunities for human flourishing on a global scale. How can our future be protected in such challenging and uncertain conditions? How can we possibly improve the chances that the human family will not only live, but live well, into the 21st century and beyond?

This book locates a key to that future in the distant past: specifically, in the philosophical traditions of virtue ethics developed by classical thinkers from Aristotle and Confucius to the Buddha. Each developed a way of seeking the good life that equips human beings with the moral and intellectual character to flourish even in the most unpredictable, complex and unstable situations–precisely where we find ourselves today.

Through an examination of the many risks and opportunities presented by rapidly changing technosocial conditions, Vallor makes the case that if we are to have any real hope of securing a future worth wanting, then we will need more than just better technologies. We will also need better humans.

Technology and the Virtues develops a practical framework for seeking that goal by means of the deliberate cultivation of technomoral virtues: specific skills and strengths of character, adapted to the unique challenges of 21st century life, that offer the human family our best chance of learning to live wisely and well with emerging technologies.

  • Applies classical philosophical traditions of virtue ethics to contemporary challenges of a global technological society
  • Argues for the unique value of virtue ethics as an ideal moral framework for the 21st century human condition, in which the future of the human family is increasingly clouded by uncertainty, instability, complexity and risk.
  • Develops and applies a moral framework that is informed by a culturally diverse group of philosophical virtue traditions, including Aristotelian, Confucian and Buddhist perspectives.
  • Applies the framework to specific ethical challenges from emerging technologies: military and social robotics, new social media, digital surveillance and self-tracking, and biomedical enhancement.
  • Addresses risks and opportunities facing an increasingly networked and interdependent human family, challenges that demand an unprecedented cultivation of collective moral wisdom on a newly global scale

Table of Contents

Introduction: Envisioning the Good Life in the 21st Century and Beyond 

Part I: Foundations for a Technomoral Virtue Ethic
Chapter One: Virtue Ethics, Technology and Human Flourishing
Chapter Two: The Case for a Global Technomoral Virtue Ethic

Part II: Cultivating the Technomoral Self: Classical Virtue Traditions as a Contemporary Guide 
Chapter Three: The Practice of Moral Self-Cultivation in Classical Virtue Traditions
Chapter Four: Cultivating the Foundations of Technomoral Virtue
Chapter Five: Completing the Circle with Technomoral Wisdom
Chapter Six: Technomoral Wisdom for an Uncertain Future: 21st Century Virtues

Part III: Meeting the Future with Technomoral Wisdom, Or How to Live Well with Emerging Technologies 
Chapter Seven: New Social Media and the Technomoral Virtues
Chapter Eight: Surveillance and the Examined Life: Cultivating the Technomoral Self in a Panoptic World
Chapter Nine: Robots at War and at Home: Preserving the Technomoral Virtues of Care and Courage
Chapter Ten: Knowing What to Wish For: Technomoral Wisdom and Human Enhancement Technology


About the Author
Shannon Vallor is the William J. Rewak, S.J. Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley, and is on the leadership team of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics. Her research focuses on the impact of emerging technologies on the moral and intellectual habits, skills and virtues of human beings – the transformation of human character by rapid advances in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and surveillance. Her work appears in numerous journals as well as Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting (2016, Oxford University Press). In 2015, she was awarded the World Technology Award in Ethics.