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IT for a better future: how to integrate ethics, politics and innovation

Bernd Carsten Stahl (Department of Informatics, Faculty of Technology, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 16 August 2011




The paper aims to explore future and emerging information and communication technologies. It gives a general overview of the social consequences and ethical issues arising from technologies that can currently be reasonably expected. This overview is used to present recommendations and integrate these in a framework of responsible innovation.


The identification of emerging ICTs and their ethical consequences is based on the review and analysis if several different bodies of literature. The individual features of the ICTs and the ethical issues identified this way are then aggregated and analysed.


The paper outlines the 11 ICTs identified. Some of the shared features that are likely to have social relevance include an increase in natural interaction, the invisibility of technology, direct links between humans and technology, detailed models and data of humans and an increasing autonomy of technology that may lead to power over the user. Ethical issues include several current topics such as privacy, data protection, intellectual property and digital divides. New problems may include changes to the way humans are perceived and the role of humans and technology in society. This includes changing power structures and different ways of treating humans.

Research limitations/implications

The paper presents a piece of foresight research which cannot claim exact knowledge of the future. However, by developing a detailed understanding of possible futures it provides an important basis for current decisions relating to future technology development and governance.

Practical implications

The paper spells out a range of recommendations for both policy makers and researchers/industry. These refer to the framework within which technology is developed and how such a framework could be designed to allow the development of ethical reflexivity.

Social implications

The work described here is likely to influence EU policy on ICT research and technology research and innovation more broadly. This may have implications for the type of technologies funded and broad implications for the social use of emerging technologies.


The paper presents a novel and important broad view of the future of ICTs that is required in order to inform current policy decisions.



Carsten Stahl, B. (2011), "IT for a better future: how to integrate ethics, politics and innovation", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 140-156.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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