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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Between Complacency, Caution, and Hope: opportunities and challenges posed by technology to democracy

7th February 2019, 17:30 to 18:30, Sir James Knott Hall, Trevelyan College, Professor Gert Jan van der Wilt (Radboud University)


The only way to live with differences is to live with it (Fran Tonkiss, 2003)

Technology is becoming an increasingly pervasive feature of our daily lives. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), for instance, are being marketed for use in elevating meditation experience, self-assessment, cognitive training, device control and the treatment of conditions such as migraines, insomnia, anxiety and depression (Ienca et al, 2018). Recent findings have shown that BCIs are potentially subject to cybercriminality such as brain-hacking, the illicit access and manipulation of neural information (Ienca and Haselager, 2016). Given their widespread and profound impact, it is remarkable that the development of such technologies largely eludes democratic decision making. Kevin Kelly (2010) has suggested that, just as biological evolution, our invented world has long-term tendencies and inevitabilities, and that the key question is how we can align ourselves with it so as to capture its full potential. In this paper, Professor Gert Jan van der Wilt will explore the question whether we should accept Kelly’s thesis, or prove to be capable of developing alternative strategies, aimed at regaining a certain degree of control. To this end, Professor van der Wilt will focus on the notion of co-production, the idea that the production of knowledge and establishing corresponding social order are intimately related (Hagendijk, 2015). He will then explore what sort of deliberative practices might emerge from this insight, helping the participants to discover the ambiguous nature of technology and develop acceptable ways of its deployment (van Leeuwen, 2015).

Hagendijk R 2015, Sense and sensibility: Science, society and politics as co-production. In: Hilgartner S, Miller CA, Hagendijk R (Eds), Science and Democracy. Making knowledge and making power in the biosciences and beyond. Routledge, New York and London.

Ienca M, Haselager P, Hacking the brain: brain-computer interfacing technology and the ethics of neurosecurity. Ethics Inf Technol 2016; 18: 117 – 129.

Ienca M, Haselager P, Emanuel EJ, Brain leaks and consumer neurotechnology. Nature Biotechnology 2018; 36 (9): 805 – 810.

Leeuwen B van, Absorbing the agony of agonism? The limits of cultural questioning and alternative variations of intercultural civility. Urban Studies 2015; 52 (4): 793 – 808.

Kelly K, 2010. What technology wants. Penguin Books, New York.

Tonkiss F, The ethics of difference. Community and solitude in the city. Int J Cult Stud 2003; 6 (3): 297 – 311.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Details about Professor Gert Jan van der Wilt

Directions to Sir James Knott Hall, Trevelyan College

Map - Trevelyan College is denoted as building No. 9

Contact for more information about this event.