Futures, Visions and Responsibility – The Ethics of Innovation

  • Project team:

    Sand, Martin (Dissertation)

  • Start date:


  • End date:


  • Research group: Innovation processes and impacts of technology

Project description

At least since the beginning of the 1990s Technology Assessment and Science and Technology Studies have investigated Leitbilder and technological visions and their effects on the concrete technological development. These studies assume that Leitbilder bundle what the involved actors consider as feasible and desirable into a collective projection. Leitbilder homogenize future-oriented expectations and synchronize processes of evaluation in shaping technologies. Similar functions are attributed to the technological vision, which is not yet clearly distinguished from the Leitbild. Since a couple of years technological visions have received increasing attention in Technology Assessment. Especially in the context of the emerging nanotechnology, which has been controversially discussed in public, it became apparent how much visions of technological futures influence the perception of new technologies, raise expectations, but also fuel fears. Soon it was discussed whether the content of the visions should be ethically reflected and whether Technology Assessment is merely in charge of providing a "reality check", which means to assess the quality of the prediction. Armin Grunwald's concept of a "hermeneutical Technology Assessment" can be qualified as the attempt to elaborate on a methodical "put vision to the acid test".

In the last two years several works in the context of Technology Assessment which are based on preliminary works of Armin Grunwald and others (Coenen, Ferrari, Böhle, Lösch, Nordmann) drew attention to the role and responsibility of technological visionaries for the technological development. In this respect, many questions arose and many aspects remained unclear. Do actors at the interface between science and technology who provide or promote technological visions meet their responsibility? Do they even go beyond their competence when they move to fictional grounds? Are they responsible for the concrete technological development, which is always a complex collective and cooperative process? Is there a moral or a causal responsibility addressed, meaning that the concrete effects or the intentions are at stake? These questions should be answered in the dissertation project.

The dissertation seeks to clarify the concepts Leitbild and vision comparatively and sketches their role in debates about technology in recent years. The project will develop a concept of responsibility and answer the question if it is possible or even required to attribute responsibility to visionary practices.

Administrative data

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Armin Grunwald
Advisor: N.N.
Doctoral students at ITAS: See Doctoral studies at ITAS


Dr. Martin Sand
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe