Peter-Paul Verbeek – Technology Panel Intervention

Current technological developments challenge our understanding of the human being and the relations between humans and technologies. While traditional technologies were typically ‘used’ by human beings, leaving humans a form of autonomy in relation to technology, contemporary technologies do not fit this configuration of use anymore. Instead, Smart Environments and the Internet of Things ask for a relation of ‘immersion’, while biotechnologies result in a ‘fusion’ of humans and technologies, and robots create ‘inter-action’. How do these new technologies affect human autonomy?


Rather than opposing humans and technologies to each other as autonomous ‘subjects’ and powerful ‘objects’, I propose to approach technologies as mediators. We should not place them in the realm of objects, but see them as part of the relations between humans and the world, organizing how humans perceive and interpret the world, how they act and what they intend to do. This approach of mediation makes room for a new ethical approach to technology, which focuses primarily on the quality of human-technology relations, and on the moral significance of technologies themselves. Using drones as an example, I will show that analyzing the mediating role of technologies in human actions and perceptions makes it possible to design technologies in a value-sensitive way, addressing the social implications of technology while they are being developed.