Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The Ethics of Disruptive Technologies: Towards a General Framework

Version 1 : Received: 12 August 2021 / Approved: 13 August 2021 / Online: 13 August 2021 (22:53:28 CEST)

How to cite: Hopster, J. The Ethics of Disruptive Technologies: Towards a General Framework. Preprints 2021, 2021080305. Hopster, J. The Ethics of Disruptive Technologies: Towards a General Framework. Preprints 2021, 2021080305.


Disruptive technologies can be conceptualized in different ways. Depending on how they are conceptualized, different ethical issues come into play. This article contributes to a general framework to navigate the ethics of disruptive technologies. It proposes three basic distinctions to be included in such a framework. First, emerging technologies may instigate localized “first-order” disruptions, or systemic “second-order” disruptions. The ethical significance of these disruptions differs: first-order disruptions tend to be of modest ethical significance, whereas second-order disruptions are highly significant. Secondly, technologies may be classified as disruptive based on their technological features or based on their societal impact. Depending on which of these classifications one adopts and takes as the starting point of ethical inquiry, different ethical questions are foregrounded. Thirdly, the ethics of disruptive technology raises concerns at four different levels of technology assessment: the technology level, the artifact level, the application level, and the society level. The respective suitability of approaches in technology ethics to address concerns about disruptive technologies co-varies with the respective level of analysis. The article clarifies these distinctions, thereby laying some of the groundwork for an ethical framework tailored for assessing disruptive technologies.


ethics of technology; emerging technologies; disruptive technology; systemic disruption; ethics of disruption


Social Sciences, Ethnic and Cultural Studies

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