The Center for the Study of Ethics and Technology (CSET) exists to promote sustained and rigorous thinking about the ethical consequences of technological change. To that end, the Center will offer courses, colloquia, and online resources dedicated to understanding the role of technology in human affairs.
While human beings have always used tools to make their way in the world, the scope, complexity, and power of our tools have grown exponentially over the last two centuries. This change has unfolded at a bewildering pace, making it difficult to perceive and address the attendant moral and ethical challenges which confront individuals, institutions, and communities.
In the decades ahead, similar challenges will continue to emerge. Advances in digital technologies, robotics, artificial intelligence, and technologies of human enhancement promise to raise a host of new ethical quandaries. Keeping up with the pace of technological change is hard enough, finding thoughtful commentary that helps clarify the moral stakes is harder still. Through its various offerings, CSET aims to make the best thinking about technology available to those trying to live wisely with technology.
In order to do this work well, CSET’s renewed efforts will be more explicitly grounded in our theological and ecclesial commitments. This move to foreground our theological convictions reflects our understanding that the best technology criticism flows out of a substantive understanding of the human person and of what constitutes human flourishing. We know that these are contested understandings, but it is, in our view, better to own our convictions and invite rigorous and honest debate rather than veiling them and undermining the critical rigor of our work. Too much of the work now being undertaken to understand and assess the ethical and political consequences of technological change flounders precisely because it knows only what it is against and not what it is for. It is inspired neither by any communal commitments or any explicit account of the good life.
In working from within our Christian tradition, we are in the company of some of our best thinkers about technology and modern society including such luminaries as Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Albert Borgmann, Romano Guardini, Marshall McLuhan, Paul Virilio, and Walter Ong.
Our Christian commitments, however, do not preclude our serious engagement with other traditions of thought or the work of scholars outside the tradition, quite the opposite. We welcome all thoughtful and principled discussions of technology, and our conversations and discussions will reflect our desire to seek wisdom and insight wherever it may be found. We trust, as well, that those outside the tradition will find our work valuable and irenic.The pace of digital culture tends to discourage serious reflection and encourage superficial responses. CSET will aim to be both timely and enduring in its analysis. This will be just one of the ways that we seek to embody the principles of the critique and alternative we will offer. This will often mean a willingness to abide unresolved tensions or be content simply to raise the right questions. We will resist the tyranny of the instantaneous and the temptation to offer neat solutions to the challenges raised by contemporary technology.
CSET is a center of Greystone Theological Institute.