The Ethics of Invention

Technology and the Human Future

Sheila Jasanoff (Author, Harvard University)


We live in a world increasingly governed by technology—but to what end?

Technology rules us as much as laws do. It shapes the legal, social, and ethical environments in which we act. Every time we cross a street, drive a car, or go to the doctor, we submit to the silent power of technology. Yet, much of the time, the influence of technology on our lives goes unchallenged by citizens and our elected representatives. In The Ethics of Invention, renowned scholar Sheila Jasanoff dissects the ways in which we delegate power to technological systems and asks how we might regain control.

Our embrace of novel technological pathways, Jasanoff shows, leads to a complex interplay among technology, ethics, and human rights. Inventions like pesticides or GMOs can reduce hunger but can also cause unexpected harm to people and the environment. Often, as in the case of CFCs creating a hole in the ozone layer, it takes decades before we even realize that any damage has been done. Advances in biotechnology, from GMOs to gene editing, have given us tools to tinker with life itself, leading some to worry that human dignity and even human nature are under threat. But despite many reasons for caution, we continue to march heedlessly into ethically troubled waters.

As Jasanoff ranges across these and other themes, she challenges the common assumption that technology is an apolitical and amoral force. Technology, she masterfully demonstrates, can warp the meaning of democracy and citizenship unless we carefully consider how to direct its power rather than let ourselves be shaped by it. The Ethics of Invention makes a bold argument for a future in which societies work together—in open, democratic dialogue—to debate not only the perils but even more the promises of technology.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • August 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-393-07899-2
  • 5.9 × 8.6 in / 320 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“This book brings disparate fields (Narrative Therapy, Interpersonal Neurobiology and Affective Neuroscience) together in ways that significantly moves our field forward. Zimmerman has always been something of an outsider, pushing the boundaries of the field while connecting it to current culture (particularly music and video). This book continues those efforts and moves into entirely new territory. Read it and it is likely to blow your mind and get you thinking in ways you may never have considered.” — Cynthia Selin, Science

“Would that all therapists write as clearly about theory and practice as Jeff Zimmerman! With an astonishing capacity to travel across the rigors of neurobiology and the complexities of narrative therapy, Neuro-Narrative Therapy offers the missing link between the conscious purpose of a post-structural practice with the emotional currents of the body and attention to this affect. Zimmerman is one of only a few to be counted as a first-generation narrative therapist, so I can assure you he did not write this book to look cool among his peers, since many—including myself—tried to talk him out of it. Neuro-Narrative Therapy has changed my opinion enough to reconsider the relational/emotional body he escorts into therapy. I am utterly thrilled with this contribution and its deft ability to transport narrative practice forward” — Steven Aftergood, Nature

“Zimmerman's ideas in this book on Neuro-Narrative therapy profoundly influenced my work as a Narrative consultant and coach in the organizational field. These ideas and practices have transformed my way of working with and training of narrative ideas to include significant moments that honor our embodied knowledge and invite affect as a participant in the room with us.” — Professor Alan Irwin, Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School

“Not bewitched by technological promises, The Ethics of Innovation reclaims the future for human creativity. Sheila Jasanoff opens our eyes to the fact that societies are governed by technical systems as much as by the rule of law. And if we want to govern ourselves well, we need collective imaginations of the world we want to live in.” — Professor Alfred Nordmann, Darmstadt Technical University

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