Careful to avoid uninformed positioning, I limited myself in my previous contribution to a Science & Technology Studies (STS)-flavoured stance about the need for closer scrutiny of existing or novel technologies when considering the role of law and regu- lation. Detailed accounts of individual technologies allow better assessments of pos- sible ethical dilemmas created by these technologies. Although authors disagree about the degree of moral agency of artefacts or things, most agree that these are more than simple passive instruments. Things influence us and our perceptions about good and bad. Things act and interact. They mediate and impact on our moral understandings.9 Knowledge about how things do that is not easy. Latour, in particular, criticises every ideal of knowledge and mastery in this area. Technologies simply escape mastery. They are the source of a continuous paradox for humans that praise technology for its functional utility, for its neutrality (neither good or bad) and for it being a means to an end, while these technologies never cease to introduce a history of enfoldings, detours, drifts, openings and translations that abolish ideas like ‘function’ and ‘neutrality’. Latour therefore sheds a critical light on modern humans that have acquired the habit to dominate but fail to see that there are no masters anymore, no clear distinctions between means and end that would allow to identify crazed technologies and ‘to bind back the hound of technology to its cage’. Morality and technology interact, often in unpredictable ways, and there is a need to conceive another history, another reassembly of morality and technology. How Latour conceives this reassembly in practice is not clear. A process with open- ness for predictable and unpredictable outcomes could bring about the necessary dig- nity of both morality and technology, whereby we renounce the idea of putting the first on the side of means and the second on the side of ends. Latour is no believer in contemporary mantras such as more transparency, or more accountability, assessment and evaluation of options. Wrongly applied, these approaches would lead us again to the impossible ideal of mastery and knowledge of things.
- Bruno Latour
- technology & law