Digital Ethics: Goals and Approach

  • Carl ÖhmanEmail author
  • David Watson
Part of the Digital Ethics Lab Yearbook book series (DELY)


Are digital technologies a force for good? The question is perhaps somewhat simplistic, but has been posed and rephrased since the early development of computers. As noted by Arthur L. Samuel, one of the great pioneers of Artificial Intelligence (AI), “as to the portents for good or evil which are contained in the use of this truly remarkable machine—most, if not all, of men’s inventions are instrumentalities which may be employed by both saints and sinner” (Samuel 1960, p. 742). Indeed, digital technologies have shown a great potential to perpetrate good and evil. From enhancing biomedical research and healthcare (Krutzinna et al. 2018) to improving social interactions (Taddeo and Floridi 2011) and education (Eynon 2013), digital technologies drive major developments of our societies and of individual wellbeing. At the same time, they can enable and exacerbate unfair discrimination (Floridi 2014), undermine fundamental rights (Floridi 2016b; Cath and Floridi 2017; Taub and Fisher 2018), foster mass surveillance (Taddeo 2013), and facilitate cyber warfare (Kello 2017; Taddeo and Floridi 2018) and cyber crime (King et al. 2018). In other words, Samuel was right. As with all technology, the ethical impact of the digital depends on the purposes of its designers and users, the saints and the sinners of Samuel’s paper.


Digital ethics Information ethics Translational ethics Cleaving power Information society 



Before leaving the reader to the chapters in this volume, we wish to thank our colleagues and members of the Digital Ethics Lab at the University of Oxford. Our gratitude goes beyond their contributions to this volume and extends to the many insightful discussions, the cheerful lab meetings, and overall, the enthusiastic and bright research environment in which we can develop our work together. We are also deeply grateful to Springer Nature for publishing the yearbook, and in particular to Ties Nijssen for his interest in the Digital Ethics Lab and support during the process that led to the publication of this volume.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oxford Internet Institute, Digital Ethics LabUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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