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  2. PhD position in Capabilities and diversity in ethics of technology

PhD position in Capabilities and diversity in ethics of technology

The Philosophy section of the University of Twente is looking for a highly motivated and excellent researcher for a 4-year, full-time PhD project on Human Capabilities, Diversity and Technological Disruptions: A New Ethical Approach as part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme, a ten-year long international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands.

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Key takeaways

  • Hours
    38 - 40 hr.
  • Salary indication
    Salary gross/monthly
    based on full-time
    € 2,770 - € 3,539
  • Deadline
    11 Jun 2024

Key takeaways

The aim of this research project is to develop an approach for ethically assessing the disruptive impact of technologies on individuals. The project centers on two key ideas. The first is that the personal interests of individuals center on not only the protection of rights, but also on support for the development of capabilities. Therefore, we need to develop an ethics of capability development in relation to technology. This approach should consider various impact dimensions of technology on human capabilities – both positive and negative – and should develop approaches for ethically assessing these dimensions. For example, impacts on health, social relations, cognition and learning, self-understanding, work and play, etc.

The second key idea is that one should take into account human diversity in ethically assessing capabilities. Ethics –including ethics of technology– too often assumes a generic individual with generic needs and capabilities, as the subject of ethical analysis. We need an ethics of diversity and technology that considers human differences, both social, psychological and physiological, and allows us to identify and analyze ethical issues in relation to different individuals and groups, rather than “the human being” in general. But what kinds of diversity are relevant for ethical analysis may differ for different technologies and contexts of application, which should also be taken into account. The objective, then, is to develop a context-sensitive ethics of diversity that is able to take into account differential impacts of technology on human capabilities, and that supports equality, equity and inclusion.

To connect these key ideas, the candidate might consider capability approaches to technology such as capability sensitive design, intersectional theory and critical disability studies, as well as extension theories of technology to come to a deeper understanding of human diversity and the ways in which technology could disrupt people’s capabilities differently with different impacts.

While the emphasis is on developing a theoretical and methodological framework for ethically assessing disruptive effects of technology on individuals, there will be (smaller) case studies to develop and (empirically) test this approach. In a concluding chapter, implications for engineering design and technology policy can also be touched upon.

This project will be supervised by dr. Naomi Jacobs (first daily supervisor), dr. Janna van Grunsven (second daily supervisor) and prof. dr. Philip Brey (promotor).

The challenge

This PhD position will be part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme, a ten-year long international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands. This programme is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research in the Gravitation funding scheme for excellent research, and by matching funds from the participating institutions. The programme aims to achieve breakthrough research  at the intersection of ethics, philosophy, technology/engineering and social sciences, and to position its consortium at the top of its field internationally. A key objective is to investigate how new technologies challenge moral values and ontological concepts (like “nature”, “human being” and “community”), and how these challenges necessitate a revision of these concepts. The programme includes four research lines, “Nature, life and human intervention”, “The future of a free and fair society”, “The Human Condition” and “Synthesis: Ethics of Technology, Practical Philosophy, and Modern Technology-Driven Societies”.

Your profile

We look for a highly motivated, enthusiastic researcher who is driven by curiosity and has:

  • a Master’s degree or equivalent in Philosophy, (Applied) Ethics, or Science and Technology Studies;
  • Affinity and/or experience in ethics or philosophy of technology, experience with empirical research is welcome but not required ;
  • An excellent track record and research skills, relative to experience;
  • The ability to work both independently and as part of an interdisciplinary and internationally oriented team;
  • Good communication skills and an excellent command of English.
  • An active interest in interdisciplinary work which connects philosophical and ethical analysis to other relevant disciplines and societal challenges.

Our offer

We encourage high responsibility and independence, while collaborating with colleagues, researchers, other university staff and partners. We follow the terms of employment by the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement for Universities (CAO). Our offer contains: a fulltime 4-year PhD position with a qualifier in the first year; excellent mentorship in a stimulating research environment with excellent facilities; and a personal development program within the Twente Graduate School. It also includes:

  • Gross monthly salary of € 2.770 in the first year, increasing each year up to € 3.539 in the fourth year;
  • Excellent benefits including a holiday allowance of 8% of the gross annual salary, an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%, and a solid pension scheme;
  • 29 holidays per year in case of full-time employment;
  • A training programme as part of the Twente Graduate School where you and your supervisors will determine a plan for a suitable education and supervision;
  • A green campus with free access to sports facilities and an international scientific community;
  • A family-friendly institution that offers parental leave (both paid and unpaid);
  • A full status as an employee at the UT, including pension, health care benefits and good secondary conditions are part of our collective labour agreement CAO-NU for Dutch universities.

The preferred start date is October 1st, 2024, but we are willing to discuss later or earlier start dates.

Information and application

Are you interested to be part of our team? Please submit your application no later than the 11th of June 2024 and include:

Additional information can be acquired via email from dr. Naomi Jacobs (n.jacobs@utwente.nl).

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About the department

The Philosophy section of the University of Twente (https://www.utwente.nl/en/bms/wijsb/) is internationally leading in the philosophy and ethics of technology. It currently includes eighteen tenured and tenure-track staff members, four postdocs and fifteen PhD students. The section participates in the interuniversity 4TU.Center for Ethics and Technology (www.ethicsandtechnology.eu). Both the section and the Center have a strong international orientation and include members from many different nationalities.

The Philosophy section is part of the department of Technology, Policy and Society (TPS), where we engage in research and education on the interplay between technology, society and policy, helping stakeholders to manage the opportunities and tensions between (new) technologies and changing societal needs.

The TPS department is dedicated to encouraging a supportive and inclusive working culture. Our aim is that all job applicants are given equal opportunities.. To support the workforce diversity, we are open to offer flexible working conditions on an individual basis to support work-life balance, that may include contract of employment, working hours and location, or child care arrangements.

About the organisation

The Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social sciences (BMS) aims to play a key role in understanding, jointly developing and evaluating innovations in society. Technological developments are the engine of innovation. As a technical university that puts people first, we tailor them to human needs and behavior and use social engineering to integrate them into society. We also ensure adequate governance at public and private level, and robust, inclusive and fair organizational structures. We do this by developing, sharing and applying high-quality knowledge in Psychology, Business Administration, Public Administration, Communication Sciences, Philosophy, Educational Sciences and Health Sciences. Our research and education in these disciplines revolves around tackling and solving societal challenges. The research programs of BMS are closely linked to the research of the UT institutes Mesa+ Institute for Nanotechnology, TechMed Center and Digital Society Institute.

As an employer, the Faculty of BMS offers work that matters. We equip you to create new possibilities for yourself and for our society. With us, you will become part of a leading technical university with increasing, positive social impact. We offer an open, inclusive and entrepreneurial atmosphere, in which we encourage you to make healthy choices, for example through our flexible, adaptable benefits.

Want to know more?

Jacobs, N. (Naomi)

Jacobs, N. (Naomi)
Assistant Professor

Jacobs, N. (Naomi)
Assistant Professor

Do you have questions about this vacancy? Then you can contact Naomi for all substantive questions about this position and the application procedure. For general questions about working for the UT, please refer to the chatbot.

How to apply

Step 1

When you see a vacancy that appeals to you, you can apply online. We ask you to upload a CV and motivation letter and/or list of publications. You will receive a confirmation of receipt by e-mail.

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Step 2

The selection committee will review your application and you will receive a response within 2 weeks after the vacancy has been closed.

Step 3

1st interview.
The 1st (online or in person) meeting serves as an introduction where we introduce ourselves to you and you to us. You may be asked to give a short presentation. This will be further explained in the invitation.

Step 4

2nd interview.
In the second interview, we will further discuss the job content, your skills and your talents.

Step 5

The offer.
If the conversations are positive, you will be made a suitable offer. If applicable, we will sign you up for screening.

Your Colleagues

About the BMS faculty

Curious about what The Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social sciences (BMS) stands for? Check out the BMS website for more information.

A job that matters

Create new opportunities for yourself, your colleagues and our society. Scientist or teacher, administrator or facilitator, thinker or doer, energetic leader or silent support – your work at the University of Twente matters. And you too!

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