RI Columns Chapter 1

Exploring our Zeitgeist: the Necessity of Responsible Innovation

In this column the importance of recognizing the collective responsibility we share and the tools, which we have to address challenges, will be briefly explored.

In this column the importance of recognizing the collective responsibility we share and the tools, which we have to address challenges, will be briefly explored.

Delray Beach housing, Florida - citylab.com

As an amateur student of history, I am entranced by the ways in which humans, as a society, get themselves into difficult situations and humans, often as individuals or small groups, find ways out of them or fail in doing so. From the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, to the European conquests, age of exploration, and enlightenment, each period has been marked by its own zeitgeist. Societies have either affected or been affected by great changes. Reflecting upon how the human condition changed at various critical points in time and how key events pushed humanity forwards or backwards, is paramount to anticipating future developments. Over the last century, we have seen change so dramatic, that our ancestors would not recognize our lifestyles. This momentum started with the industrial revolution, was strengthened during the engineering accomplishments driven by the necessities of the First and Second World Wars and brought home during the agricultural revolution in the ‘60s and the clash of ideals in the Cold War.

We now live in a world, in which every part of our lives relies both on technology, as well as on the work of others and in a society, which has been largely driven by consumerism here in the west. This focus on gathering more resources, refining them and making an ever-increasing amount of goods has created a Frankenstein monster in itself that we, being so close to it, rarely recognize. Damages to our planet and societies come from every direction: from factory farming, pesticide and herbicide overuse in agriculture, to over-crowded cities with huge income disparities, inefficient and wasteful transportation as well as destructive resource extraction methods. Good inventions, made in the previous century for previous century needs, have become so ubiquitous and have been applied at such a large scale in order to maximize perceived profits, that to questions them is akin to challenging the status quo. This over-industrialization and culture of excess and apathy have set humanity on a path of self-destruction: be it through global warming, resource conflicts or some other unforeseen catastrophe.

However, a revolutionary tool, which we have gained and honed over the last 20-25 years, is the internet, which will likely be the defining invention of our generation and marked as a turning point in history. It connects individuals from across the world, facilitating discussions at such speed and with such anonymity that great ideas quickly come to the forefront. Persons, who are empowered both locally and internationally, gain much from cultural exchange and a higher degree of critical thinking. Ideas about environmental protection and safety, originating from scientific and left-leaning parties in the 70s, are beginning to permeate the metaculture in myriad ways. People, all across the world, are beginning to feel culpable, empowered and perceptive of the challenges, which face us as a species.

Moreover, the current zeitgeist is defined by responsible and, more importantly, necessary innovation. We, as a species, are collectively responsible for a series of trolley games, complicated by the problem of many hands to such a degree that effective enforcement is difficult to employ, and if we make too many of the wrong decisions, we face the harsh reality of oblivion. Coercion and education seem to be the path forward if we do not wish to inhibit the freedoms our forefathers fought so hard to gain. A focus, not just on innovation, but responsible innovation, must be made to meet the challenges we have created for ourselves in this new millennium. In order to raise the required collective willpower, we must re-engineer governing structures so as to make what is individually rational, conflict less with what is collectively rational. To do so, we must learn from history, to see how people were convinced and set to purpose en masse (post World War 2 Europe), and learn to anticipate future needs, limitations and explore applied ethics (natural and social sciences).

Images sourced from kidskonnect.com and citylab.com

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The responsible side of innovating

Responsible innovation is more than just innovating. It is creating a better environment for you, me and all the people around us.

Responsible innovation is more than just innovating. It is creating a better environment for you, me and all the people around us.

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September ninth, a lot of people are sitting at home and following the stream nervous about what they will present next. The tension is high and when the stream starts everybody is curious what, for some people, the biggest innovators of this planet have created now. I’m talking about Apple. A company started in 1976, which really got big in the beginning of the year 2000. The company has been seen since then as one of the most innovative companies. Apple has even been called brand of the decennium by AdWeek.

It sounds like an amazing company, with lots of innovation and ground breaking technologies. The world is in love with the brand, until it finds out all of their precious Iphones have been made, and are still made, mostly by child hands under very harsh conditions.

Has this been the “responsible innovation” everybody talked about?

Responsible innovation is more than just innovating. It is creating a better environment for you, me and all the people around us.

A company who is doing the complete opposite of Apple is Heineken. With factories all over the world it constantly tries to improve themselves. Heineken always uses 6% of their profit and uses it for innovation. They have 5 priorities from which the most important, in my opinion, is building for sustainability. Heineken is not just a brand, it does not only try to create a better product each time. No, Heineken does  a lot more.

Currently Heineken is protecting water resources by reducing water needed for brewing beer. It is also reducing CO2 emissions. Sourcing sustainably, by stimulating the local agriculture. They help farmers in Africa grow their own crops, and buy these crops of those farmers. Last but not least, Heineken is also advocating responsible consumption.

Heineken is doing a lot more than just innovating. The company has got a golden reputation and is seen as one of the leading brands in Responsible innovation.

Even though Apple is also putting money in responsible innovation, they are not taking matter into their own hands. They just give money to other organizations or invest money in green energy. While still a lot of employees in third world countries are working under wretched conditions. Apple is just creating an image that they are innovating responsible, instead of tackling the real issues.

Two million dollar companies and two completely different ways of innovating. While Heineken is actively contributing towards a better society in third world countries, while Apple is just donating money to other organizations. How come that these two companies have a completely different way of taking care of values while innovating? How can we make sure the million dollar companies actively contribute in those responsible innovation values? Do we even have influence to change company policy?

Responsible innovation is something you do together, together we create a better world. There is still a lot of work to do to meet the values of the United Nations. 

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The Influence of knowledge on responsibility

Knowing or not knowing a certain fact can change one's responsibility considerably.

Knowing or not knowing a certain fact can change one's responsibility considerably.

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This week’s topic introduced us to many new terms related to responsibility, like causal and moral responsibility, but also individual and collective responsibility. To decide whether a person or party is either causal or morally responsible always depends on the amount of knowledge that this person or party has about the problem.

 

In particular, knowledge is required in order to be morally responsible for a problem. As an example, we could take a car accident that happens on an intersection. A woman crosses the intersection when another car approaches from the right and they have an accident. Because the car from the right had the right of way, we could say that the woman is causally responsible for the accident. If she had seen the car approaching before crossing the intersection, the woman would also be morally responsible. We can see here that the difference between being causally and morally responsible is only a matter of knowledge. In the very same accident, the fact of knowing that another car is approaching changes the situation.

Furthermore, we can note that while knowledge is required to be morally responsible, this is not the case for being causally responsible. Regardless of whether the woman saw the other car approaching or not, she is always causally responsible for the accident. This is linked with the idea that someone cannot be morally responsible if he or she is not first causally responsible for a certain problem.

 

In this case it is fairly easy to distinguish who is responsible for the accident in what way. However, in cases where there are multiple parties involved, a case of many hands, this is a more difficult task. Additionally, it can also fundamentally change how a problem is viewed. As an example we can take the fireproof material problem given in the course, which is as follows.

-          Person A is a researcher who invents a fireproof material.

-          Person B hires person A to do this task.

-          Person C uses the material to make fireproof suits.

-          Person D cleans these suits after each use.

The problem here is that when the material comes into contact with soap, this results in a chemical reaction which causes the death of person D. Who is responsible for this death? At first we might say that person A is responsible, because he invented the material. But what if person B didn’t tell him that they would be made into washable suits? Then surely person B is responsible since person A only did the research he was asked to do. Furthermore, in the case that people A and B and C knew about the danger but person C decided to make suits out of it anyway knowing that they were to be washed, person C should be held accountable.

 

In this issue, it is of huge importance that it is made clear how much knowledge each person had of his task before a verdict is given to the murderer. What first seems like a minor detail, turns out to be a cause of death. This importance of knowledge is the cause of why any party always documents how much they know about a subject in the process of innovation. This documentation of knowledge is crucial in determining who is responsible for a problem in any innovation. And as such, crucial in any process of responsible innovation.

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”Responsible Innovation requires several I’s, and they need to work together.”

”Responsible Innovation requires several I’s, and they need to work together.”

By Olivier Rutgers

“The greatest danger to our future is apathy”

  Jane Goodall, anthropologist and biologist

Growing up in a first world country as a privileged male college student has a lot of advantages. But we tend to forget this when we start worrying if our phone will still be charged enough so we can watch an episode of “Game of Thrones” on Netflix on the train ride home. Not having to worry about food, drinking water or shelter creates a safe environment, in which we, myself included, easily forget these are not available to millions of people in third world countries.

This natural response of obliviousness, rather than ignorance, has changed since I started the minor Responsible Innovation. Instead of simply a want to care, it evolved into a more pragmatic approach, focused on acquiring an objective view and studying possible solutions. 

 

Another effect of having the safe bubble around you becomes apparent when watching the news. Getting confronted with global problems on a daily basis doesn’t motivate you to donate hundreds of euros to Greenpeace, Giro 555, or WWF. On the contrary, it makes you apathetic to these problems. Why do something now while the next crisis is just around the corner? 

News programmes showed us the struggle of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees in enormous tent camps, or running across borders in Europe to achieve financial and political stability. Citizens all over Europe have started philanthropic efforts to collect food, blankets and provide housing for these refugees. But these are short term solutions. To solve the refugee crisis, we need to study long term solutions while asking ourselves serious questions: Who is responsible for this problem and who needs to take responsibility in solving it? And how can we ensure an innovative sustainable solution, all whilst keeping true to our moral values.

 

“Concern yourself more with accepting responsibility than with assigning blame. Let the possibilities inspire you more than the obstacles discourage you.”

Ralph Marston, writer

Responsible Innovation consists of two parts, starting with responsibility. As a singer in a choir I’m part of a machine controlled by a conductor; we trust upon each other to do what’s expected from us to create beautiful music. To illustrate the quote from Marston, we need to know the symbiosis of conductor and choir is fragile. When the conductor is misunderstood, or gives the choir a premature cue, it’s not a matter of whose fault it is, but you listen to the people around you, take responsibility and correct the mistake in order to let it pass by unnoticed to the audience.

Taking this point into reality, we can see it work in the case of tackling climate change. It’s not just a case of assigning the largest polluter, but a case of everyone researching how they can reduce pollution the most. At this point the problem shifts from a vague causal collective responsibility, to a clear moral individual responsibility. This is crucial in bypassing the ‘problem of many hands’,  in which no clear individual responsibility can be appointed, as there are too many factors causing climate change. By making everyone feel responsible, everybody will be inspired to find ways to pull their own weight in reducing their carbon footprint, promoting creativity and innovation.

 

“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument and debate.”

Margaret Heffernan, businesswoman and writer

Innovating responsibly means including moral values, such as privacy, safety and security, although they might seem contradictory. To aid in welding these values into a sturdy, lasting solution, we need a platform to facilitate debate between scientists, activists and businesses. With debate, we can make sure the new solution will be a (better) fit for the problem at hand, for now and for years after, until new innovation takes place. This innovation usually requires risk-taking, and debating makes sure these risks don’t exceed what is morally acceptable.

 

Responsible Innovation means coming out of your comfort zone, acquiring an objective view, not focusing on the little things, but planning a course of action. Make everybody feel responsible and let everybody participate in a healthy discussion. With these new ideas and new energy we can begin tackling the problems that society faced in the past, battles today and defeats in the future. 

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How can responsible innovation solve refugee problem?

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Although week 1 had many topics to introduce, I strongly believe that group one organized their activities and presentations well. Not only did they use course materials but also they came up with own examples from real life. What I also liked about the way they presented is that one of members did some drawings when he was explaining about moral and causal involvement. He came up with a specific case which was about a man killing other man or a man accidentally exploded a whole factory. The first one is morally involved because he had intention to kill a specific person whereas the latter one is causally involved since the cause was technological defect.

What I enjoyed most was the second group activity. I was impressed that group one divided students into different groups with a specific task. In the beginning all students filled in a survey about refugee problem which made us thinking about this topic. The second activity was about ranking eight different values that were food, education, health care, global leadership, sustainability, equality and etc. In my group, we ranked food and education as most important elements since it is impossible to do something when you are starving. Although I really liked this activity but the general statement they gave was not specific enough which was about coming up an innovative idea to solve refugee problem. I would rather solve a specific case, for example, what would you do if you actually take one refugee into your family as a high school student in individual level. This is more practical and more fun to do as an activity. Thinking collectively requires some skills such as political knowledge which consumes much more time. Since the time for class was limited I believe it was wiser to focus on individual responsibility.

There was one answer to the refugee problem which I still clearly remember. One of my class members said that we should create a flexible certificate for refugee. In most cases, although educated refugees had doctor degree in their country those degrees mean nothing in Europe or other developed countries. Therefore we have to support those educated refugees to let them contribute to society. In that way it is possible to accept some immigrants into Europe. I totally agree with this suggestion that is because I have some friends whose parents were refugees in the past and they struggled a lot in order to get a proper job in the Netherlands. I am also aware that there are no standards for this kind of issue yet.

In overall I enjoyed this class so much. It made me think about refugee more seriously and from now on I will take a close look whenever I see an issue about this topic. I learned an important lesson from this and I also want to remind my friends and family regarding refugees. It was interested to talk about this together because this is not directly related to our life.

 

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Ethics,responsibility and engineering

In this column I will talk about ethics and responsibility and their relationship with engineering. This will be done with an example of environmental engineering and it ends with questions regarding your own ethics.

In this column I will talk about ethics and responsibility and their relationship with engineering. This will be done with an example of environmental engineering and it ends with questions regarding your own ethics.

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Ethics and engineering are not always thought to be as something that have a connection with each other. But engineers deal with a lot of ethical problems. Let me give an example.

Alex is an engineering student employed for the summer by Environmental Engineering, a consulting firm. RJ, the engineer who supervises Alex, directs Alex to sample the contents of drums located on the property of a client. From the look and smell of the drums, Alex believes that analysis of the sample will show hazardous waste in the drums. Alex knows that if the material contains hazardous waste, there are legal requirements for the transport and disposal of the drums, and that federal and state authorities must be notified. Alex informs RJ of the likely contents of the samples and asks what to do next. RJ instructs him to report only that samples have been taken, and not to do the analysis. Since the client is a major one for Environmental Engineering, RJ proposes to report to the client only where the drums are located and that they contain questionable material, and suggest that they should be removed. Note that it is much more expensive to dispose of hazardous waste than conventional waste. Many states have laws requiring environmental engineers to report any evidence of a "release" of hazardous materials. (Any presence of hazardous material in other than its intended placement for use and storage counts as "release".)Does RJ fulfill an engineer's professional responsibilities by informing the client only of the presence of the drums and withholding more specific information on their contents? What can and should Alex, a student and a summer hire, do in this situation? The first question is not a hard one, RJ should give the specific information to the client and to the state. Here you see a dilemma between money and do the right thing. If RJ does not give the specific information, the big client will do more business with Environmental Engineering and that means more money for Environmental Engineering. If he does do the right thing he could lose a big amount of money and save the environment. Alex has the same kind of dilemma, being quit and preserve your job or talk and maybe get fired.  The right thing is of course to tell the client and the state about the specific information. But what if Alex and RJ both choose to not do the right thing? Who would be responsible when the state find outs that the drums contain hazardous waste? Would it be RJ, Alex or both? They are both responsible in my opinion, but RJ is more responsible because he is a supervisor and should give the right example to Alex. Alex is just a student who probably would just listen to his supervisor, but he also has a brain and therefore knows the distinction between right and wrong. 

But what would you do? The right thing, give the specific information and probably lose a big client and therefore a big amount of money, or the wrong thing and you chose not for the money but for the environment. Are you good or bad?

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Easy to blame, difficult to act

Media as a mediator to our responsibility.

Media as a mediator to our responsibility.

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We in the Netherlands are surrounded by media influences all day. We can look at nu.nl, buy newspapers or even receive them in our mailbox every morning. If we turn on the television there is a nearly constant stream of news differentiating from Al Jazeera to BBC world news, and NPO nieuws to RTL Z. Everything is available at all times, and everything is open for discussion due to social media platforms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Considering this availability it would make sense to see loads of innovation, which would indicate people taking some form of individual responsibility. Individual responsibility as we have discussed in class using the example of people opening their homes for refugees, while using the media to make this more popular. In my opinion this is a very good example of people deciding to take some individual responsibility. When we look at other situations however, individuals are not so quick to do something.

For example climate change: In a study from Kirilenko & Stepchenkova (2014) tweets conserning climate change were searched and analysed  in the duration of 2012 1,8 million tweets were found (in English, German, Russian, Portuguese, and Spanish). While complaining about global warming, people continue to drive their SUV’s , turn on their air conditioning or heater and shower for long periods of time.  When we look at the figures, we see that the demand for energy is increasing  instead of decreasing. In 2012 energy use was increased with 3,4 percent in comparison to 2000. We as consumers knowing the effects to be bad continued our patterns of energy use (CBS, 2013 ; Unknown author, 2014).

 When does our sense of individual responsibility kick in? When looking at our own action and that of someone else we usually do not blame ourselves due to the fundamental attribution error: our personal situation causes a pattern in which we consider ourselves not responsible. However when somebody else does or does not do something that we disagree with it is due to this person or group (Forsyth, 2014). For example the government might be considered lazy or negligent if they do not reduce the carbon dioxide emission or find alternative energy sources. The government needs to take its collective responsibility according to the people. But when the government takes this collective responsibility, it could also lead to more inactiveness of the people. The media has a big part in this for (in general) being the main source of information for the population.

The media can in some points look at a situation from a rights- or sometimes even merit based perspective: The media often looks for a stakeholder to blame. In the case of a rights based perspective the causal responsibility is all that matters, the merit based perspective also takes moral responsibility, the bad intention, into account (Doorn, 2012). In the case of global warming the focus was on the rights based perspective.  The governments have the same perspective: they also look for the stakeholders, in this case countries and companies, that carry the biggest part of the causal responsibility.

But when there are specific stakeholders to blame, which are blamed by the governments and highlighted by the media. And when we see and hear about these stakeholders, which is even more reason not to blame ourselves, a question will rise: why should we as individuals take up individual responsibility?

 On the bright side of things, I see the (social) media as a mean to address individuals to take their individual responsibility. Regular media can make people aware of situations and ways to deal with these. Social media can help people find each other to create social movements. Social movements are long term goal based groups who attempt to change a current situation or problem and have the goal to make a difference ( Forsyth, 2014). In the end I think these groups and a sufficient amount of information will help us all to face our problems and take our responsibility.

Carbon Dioxide Emission from 1990 till 2013. From the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

 Average Energy use of households from 1990 till 2010. Found on: Kennislink.nl

 The “World Energy Outlook 2011” From the “Internationaal Energie Agentschap” Found on http://aardgas-in-nederland.nl/de-toekomst-van-aardgas/aardgasreserves-en-verbruik/

 

References:

-          CBS. (2013). Energieverbruik hoger in 2012. Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek. Source found at: http://www.cbs.nl/nl-NL/menu/themas/industrie-energie/publicaties/artikelen/archief/2013/2013-3816-wm.htm

-          Doorn, N. (2012). Responsibility Ascriptions in Technology Development and Engineering: Three Perspectives. Science and Engineering Ethics, 18, 69-90. DOI 10.1007/s11948-009-9189-3

-          Forsyth, D. R. (2014). Group Dynamics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

-          Kirilenko, A. P., & Stepchenkova, S. O. (2014). Public microblogging on climate change: One year of Twitter worldwide. Global Environmental Change-Human and Policy Dimensions, 26, 171-182. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.02.008

-          Unknown author. (2014). Energietrends 2014. ECN, Energie-Nederland en Netbeheer Nederland.

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Just do something: many hands, little action

So many hands, yet so few feel responsible. To act as an individual, just, do, something.

So many hands, yet so few feel responsible. To act as an individual, just, do, something.

Innovation is part of human history, from the swamp to the stars was and still is a journey filled with innovation in every aspect of life. Going from simple tools to modern weapons, from tents to houses and so on, as well as advances in social constructions in society and many more examples.

In the recent years innovation has become especially important, as a shifting economy from linear to circular, climate change and an increase in human population, to name but a few, force people to be more creative in solving issues. However, where innovation can be of great value to an economy and people, it can also do harm, especially when it concerns, for example, risky technology. Considering that nearly every new technology has negative side-effects, if innovated responsibly those risks will be minimised and preferably avoided. This poses huge challenges though, as the “problem of many hands” pops up very regularly.

Take for example cars. Great invention, as people became much more mobile than before while these cars became increasingly safer, faster and cheaper, aiding economic growth. However, cars turned out to be harmful to the environment and human health, let’s only consider exhaust gasses for simplicity. Research shows that people die every year due to exhaust fumes. But who is responsible for this? The automotive industry, the government, the consumer? Turns out the answer is everybody and nobody. It is very difficult to point out one, or a couple, guilty. One institution, for example the consumer, could act and buy an electric car. But if only one family does this, not a lot will change. This explains the difference between individual and collective responsibility. Everybody should feel responsible, or at least a form of enforcement of rules should be in place, for the collective whole to prosper and, more fundamentally, to stay alive.

What really strikes me is the collective responsibility in modern day society. Nearly everybody respects the rules and regulations that are there to govern the collective. But when it comes to feeling responsible for ones actions, way less people really care to take responsibility. Take for example the climate issues. While more and more people start to act in one way or another, the collective hardly takes action. One of the arguments I usually hear in this is: “It’s very expensive to live sustainable.” While in some cases this is true, biological food or solar panels are expensive, we live in a country with a very strong middle-class that could afford way more sustainable products than being bought today. But even if living sustainable is too expensive, there are plenty other ways to act:

-          Participate in eco initiatives

-          Convincing those who can afford it to live sustainable

-          Picking up litter

And so much more. With so many of us, rules and enforcement alone just won't do it and more of us should feel morally responsible as well. 

As an individual you can’t do everything, but you can do something. I believe that this is the key of all this, just doing something in the right direction. Be it acting on the environment, the refugee crisis, poverty, or less serious and smaller problems. Just, do, something.

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Reducing the many hand problem by adding an extra hand

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Looking at the hypothetical example in which four persons were involved in the development of new fire-resistant material, discussed in the Responsible Innovation course. It becomes clear that none of them are responsible when looking at the four conditions of responsibility.

 

In my opinion this problem could have been prevented in many ways. But first I will clarify the actors involved in this example a bit more.

Person A: The scientist, and in this case doing research on a new material.

Person B: The designers, in this case the “tailor”, fitting new products in their workfield.

Person C: The boss, the director of the business who also hired person B

Person D: The cleaner, works in the business and is tasked with cleaning up.

 

If we look at the example more closely, it is easy to say that the scientist should have tested its new material on possible reactions with other materials or surroundings. The designers should not have used products without knowing the specifics of the new material. The boss should be more involved in implementing new technology. And the cleaner should be aware of the new products possible negative effects and should ask for more information when working with an unknown product.

 

In my opinion none of these solutions will have a bigger impact on the current situation. Therefore I would like to add a fifth person called person E: the overseer, a broad learned colleague who focuses on the implementation of new products in their business.

 

When a company decides to implement a new product the overseer goes into the depth of this product and asks himself in which way the product will be used within the business and with which it comes into contact. When this problem occurs again, but now with the overseer present, and the overseer being accountable for the research of the product within their company, someone can be found responsible for possible collateral damage.

 

If a problem occurs with a new product one has to look at the four conditions of responsibility:

The freedom condition: The overseer does his job freely and is not under external pressure

The knowledge condition: As it is the job of the overseer to know about the product he has to have the knowledge of any possible negative outcomes.

The causal connection: When the overseer approves a product to be implemented in a business there is a causal connection between the act of approving the product and overseeing possible negative outcomes.

The transgression of a norm: If the overseer approves a product and thereby transgressing, for example, safety norm the overseer is to be held accountable.

 

The overseer has a big responsibility and in my opinion this position should not be practiced alone.

I would advise a council of overseers, this is because one overseer does not have the knowledge of the scientist who does the research on a new product and does not have the man power to inspect the product thoroughly on his own. Also, I find that putting so much responsibility on one person is not ethical responsible.

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Column 1/7: Ridiculous DELAY (NEEDS Innovation)

A chance to get amused, surprised and be carried away from a safe distance, by the opportunities and challenges that take place at the Responsible Innovation minor.
Driven by the motto of the Faculty of Social Sciences; 'Discover people. Discover society!' an Erasmus Student is trying not to get lost in the new world of Technology, Policy and Management.

A chance to get amused, surprised and be carried away from a safe distance, by the opportunities and challenges that take place at the Responsible Innovation minor.
Driven by the motto of the Faculty of Social Sciences; 'Discover people. Discover society!' an Erasmus Student is trying not to get lost in the new world of Technology, Policy and Management.

RIDICULOUS DELAY

Delft — During the first ProjectGroup a conflict of unshared common values occurred. Apparently when it comes to young children and education, there is no need for RI. The fact that 200.000 children are at risk, isn't just that WILD (card worthy)enough. I must say, that I understand  the coach’s personal hunger for process(ing)plants and generating much more food.  Also, I totally rely on her responsible managing skills. What was I thinking? Helping kids and innovate just isn't valued enough. Put all our efforts in Urban Farming 2.0, instead of childcare and education, is the best ethical outcome. With all the supermarkets running out of veggies and the greenhouses turning blue now a days, the need for Urban farmers grows every minute. This is definitely a possibility for us to prevent future generations will go (Urban) bananas. Why care about kids if we can innovate Urban Farming.

 

Off track                   During an interactive presentation, we were introduced  to some key-concepts of RI. Ethical cases cause a million of questions and even more possible answers. When innovation takes place, change will occur. Who can kept accountable being the cause and thus, be responsible for following effect?  Who is really to blame in this causal chain? To remain on track with the Trolley case, consider the following; ‘Can a person be kept accountable, for consciously and willingly interrupt or prevent RI initiatives to take place? Such as the example of children that will go bananas, without Urban Farming instead of Education. Damn it feels unethical to be put on hold by your Professor and get off track. 

 

(A) R (rrghhhh) I       With new knowledge about cause and effect, it’s time for real solutions for the Millennium Project. World saving goals, building your own Pyramid and a 15 minute break, facilitates only 2 innovative ideas in the entire class. We were challenged to be creative, Think Out Of The Box, Be Inspiring and of course always stay responsible. To be more specific; How Dutch citizens, individual- or collectively, can help refugees of Syrian Crisis. My group  did chit-chat a lot, about ‘nothing’ solving topics. When I realized that the Syrian families would also become a victim of the strange need to solve problems with farms. I felt responsible so I totally freaked out. 

 

Re-fugitive                   I was screaming; “What are you guys thinking??”  “Are you serious?” “You actually think that offering this heavy traumatized Syrians a Job in ‘Het Westland’ will bring any good?” The group already made plans for contacting the ‘Millennium Project’ to share the news; Innovate by allowing Slavery again. Transport the Syrian to the Greenhouses, where they will work and participate in society. I couldn’t take it any more and tried to put an end on this now! 

 

Ridiculous Innovation.  I  stepped up and finally I had the attention needed: “This group should definitely collaborate with my other projectgroup and combine the two RI cases to one big project. Then you can fix the problem of the Syrian Refugees and at the same time be responsible for the innovation of farming in the city. Invent Urban Refugee Farms. We only have to rebuild the greenhouses in the city. Transport the refugees from Apeldoorn to their new homes. In this way Syrians can live and process food at the same time. How responsible! A combination of 2 innovative wrongs can make a right!

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United we stand, divided we fall

In this week’s lecture we talked about the different types of responsibility. We’ve talked about individual responsibility and collective responsibility. The main course of the lecture was the case about the refugees that have begun to flee in larger numbers towards Europe.

In the lecture we did a game which dealt on how the individual and on the collective level. All this deals with how to solve the current problem we face. However when I was reading up on the news I was more intrigued by how the current status quo in Syria itself is obtained and what is being done about that.

What I read was the report about Iran and Russia sending armed forces to Syria to aid the regime ofAssad. This made me think about the collective responsibility of the world’s nations that believe theyhave an interest in this part of the world.

Since we also talked about the Millenium Goals in the lecture it also made me think about the goal that is called “Global Partnership for Development”. For me this goal also includes helping countriesin special situations, such as the present situation in Syria. Ofcourse I believe that the refugees that have already fled and will be fleeing should be taken in and taken care of to the best of our ability. However finding solutions to this situation does not solve the problem that creates the refugees itself.

When thinking about these two aspects it struck me how wrong the world’s nations are handling the situation in Syria itself. Each of these nations is handling in their own self-interest. They are all trying to solve the situation in Syria in their own way, by helping their “own” parties in the conflict. For example the article that I read was Iran and Russia helping the Assad-regime, on the other hand there is the US and allies that are helping the “moderate”-rebels, lastly there are reports of Saudi-Arabia and Turkey aiding ISIL in one way or the other. All these groups are fighting each other. As you will probably also notice, this does not solve the situation in Syria at all. It only lengthens the conflict which in turn will make sure the stream of refugees will only grow. This stream of refugees also raises the prospect of so called “brain drain” from Syria, which does not promise good things for Syria when this conflict will end.

What I am trying to say with this is that where I previously thought about the Millenium Goal on “Global Partnership for Development” as not that important, the importance of this goal struck me after reading and thinking about this situation. All the world’s nations vying for power against each-other in certain situations is getting us nowhere. In the present day world I don’t believe there is much collective responsibility between the large nations. When these nation’s resources would be pooled together these crises could be resolved much more efficiently.

United we stand, divided we fall

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Politics and Responsibility: A complex relation

Jordi Granés Puig - Are politicians responsable to act as it's expected after reading their programs and see their own declarations? Should they switch their policies if there's a big claim of their population or should they still loyal to what they said before being elected?

Jordi Granés Puig - Are politicians responsable to act as it's expected after reading their programs and see their own declarations? Should they switch their policies if there's a big claim of their population or should they still loyal to what they said before being elected?

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Politics and responsibility: A complex relation

 

On September 11th the whole world witnessed a huge rally in Barcelona’s streets in favour of the Catalan independence. This has been the 4th consecutive year with great pacific mobilizations from the Catalan civil population claiming for the chance to vote about their own independence. But, what’s the reaction of the politicians? What should they do?

First of all, a definition of who are the politicians can help us to know what their responsibility is. The politicians are some men and woman who are chosen every few years to be the people’s voice on the parliament according to the principles of their own electoral programs. Additionally, when one party is on the government, it has the responsibility of doing what is better for its county and the responsibility to make sure that all their citizens enjoy the society’s fundamental rights.

Watching at these two main responsibilities, a natural question appears. Do they always work in the same direction? It is possible that a government need to forget about their own population fundamental rights in order to do what is better for them or vice versa?

This is exactly what happens in the “Catalan affair”. The Spanish government has a huge dilemma because, in one hand, if they allowed Catalans to vote and get independent, Spain would become way poor. On the other hand, deny the Catalans their right to decide about their own collective future is a serious attack to the democratic values. What they finally did was to block any intent of negotiation from the Catalan government and argue that any referendum or consultation about secession was unconstitutional.

And what happens in Catalonia? Before the blooming of the sovereignty, only a few Catalan parties were in favour or against the independence because it was an utopic debate. Nevertheless, after the first huge rally in 2011 people started to realize that the independence supporters were not a minority. Three decades of frustrated negotiations to be a singular community in Spain, due to a different culture and language, finished in a massive refuse to Spain. In that context, the majority of Catalan parties started different democratic procedures to ask their affiliates if they were in favour or against independence and included the support or refuse to the independence in their own electoral programs.

Watching at that political serial, that still has to be solved, we can point two observations. First of all, there is a strange situation about responsibility where a few (politicians) have the responsibility for the many (citizens). Secondly, we can learn that responsibility is an ethical obligation but, sometimes, you have to forget it in order to do what is correct according to our modern society values. In that case, the Spanish government have the responsibility of doing what is better for their country, keeping Catalonia inside Spain, but also have the stronger responsibility of allowing people to vote, one of the pillars of occidental society.

The writer’s personal opinion is that Spanish government should allow Catalan people to vote but, of course, support the non independentist option. If the reader wants more information about the “Catalan affair”, in 27th September the Catalan government will celebrate plebiscitary elections where all parties have pronounced in favour or against independence. The result is uncertain since the undecided people weights around 15% of the votes.

 

Jordi Granés Puig

Delft, 13th September 2015

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All because of you, thanks.

The world is bleeding out. We should find a way to make you feel individual responsible for society’s collective responsibilities.

The world is bleeding out. We should find a way to make you feel individual responsible for society’s collective responsibilities.

Working together to save the Earth

You did not do anything to stop this. Do not deny it. When the last rhino was shot you did not blink an eye, you were too busy watching Keeping up with the Kardashians. You just do not care; all you care about is the leftover pizza in your fridge. You might watch a documentary about polar bears tonight, but the documentary is in only 8K so you are wondering if you will be even able to see any polar bears. But what would you expect from a 30 year old documentary. Was it your responsibility to save the polar bears? Of course not, what could you have done to save them? Nothing... Right? You could have turned down the heater, but then you would have been cold, poor you… 

This exposes one of the problems in the field of responsible innovation, not many people feel responsible for their collective responsibilities. If we could find an innovative way to make individuals feel individual responsible for their collective responsibilities much more people would take action. Imagine that everybody would instantly connect their actions to the collective consequences. This means that if you shower for twice as long as necessary you would feel more responsible for the negative consequences this has on the environment. I think that if everybody feels more responsible for these things many more people would accept harsh measures to save the environment and would even do more than they are expected to do.

It is time to take action to solve this “tragedy of the commons”, because so far all we have done is point our fingers at each other. This pointing our fingers should become the shaking of our hands as a sign of collective cooperation to solve the grand challenges of our society together. We can do so much more together than we can do individually, but most of the things we will have to change are our individual behavior and routine. If we work together and decide to all stop using the car when we could also take the train we would decrease CO2 pollution significantly. Many students are using the train every week in the Netherlands and if we keep doing this collectively, even when we get older, we would set the right example for others.

We are backwards responsible for climate change, because we did not take action in 1938 when Guy Callendar first found indications that the rise of the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere caused the rise of temperature on Earth. When more and more scientist found proof that CO2 was causing global warming we still did nothing. We could have done things much earlier and now we need to take our responsibility and save our planet and take our forward responsibility and make sure future generations can enjoy the joy of living on Earth as well. But to make sure that we take action we need more harsh regulations and therefore we need a bigger sense of responsibility for the environment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where the World is heading

Stevan Milosevic - A peek into the hottest current global issue, making our Earth more sustainable.

Stevan Milosevic - A peek into the hottest current global issue, making our Earth more sustainable.

Beijing air pollution, Getty Images

We live in a modern age with smartphones and fiber-optic internet, on one side of the planet. The other side consists of people fighting over whose God is the righteous one (though they all believe in the same one), enslaved workers building life-sized playgrounds for the oil-enriched royals, and a billion people strong country that is polluting to death not only itself,  but the Earth as a whole as well.

In the few millennia we, the humans, lived in the civilized society, you’d think we would have gotten it right eventually; that we would be on our way to the stars, exploring the universe, and prospered from the knowledge our ancestors have left us with, having cured the humanity of disease and poverty first. Instead, we are seeing a massive migration of a country’s worth of people from war-stricken regions, and a growing gap between the rich and poor.

So, could being responsibly innovative fix this?

A good start would be fixing what we have been destroying for the past 150 years or so – our environment. Although it is too late to do so, according to some experts, the humanity is in a desperate need to fix what the industrial revolution has brought us, the heavily polluted environment. The biggest problem right now (in my opinion) is very political, since the big change we are all waiting to happen, with greener cars, factories, cities, is stuck in a typical bureaucratic mess that any other change of this magnitude goes through (legalizing gay marriage, for an example).

The saddest part is that we are capable of changing things quickly, as was demonstrated in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. Due to this event, the pollution in the city was brought down to levels the rest of the world would consider acceptable. Things quickly went back to the usual once the Games were over, unfortunately. A few days ago, Environmental Health Perspectives [1] published a paper in which it was determined that babies born in Beijing during the Olympics weighed an average of 23 grams more than in the previous years around the same time. The air pollution is harming humans before they’re even born. Yet, we continue this rampageous destroying of our planet, for the sake of the economy and profits!

 Air pollution in Beijing, source:gettyimages.com

Some food for thought then, if China is capable of drastically decreasing its pollution when it must do so, what is stopping the rest of the world from taking a step forward and eliminating, or at least decreasing, the pollutions they are causing?

A nice counter-example to China’s horrible record is Rwanda, a small African country with an uproarious history, which is trying to take a step forward. See, in Rwanda, plastic bags are illegal. Instead of using the precious fossil fuels to create them, and poisoning the environment by the toxins released once the plastic bags were burned at their disposal, Rwandan government decided that a full-on ban on plastic bags was a better idea. If a developing country such as Rwanda can achieve this, what’s stopping the rest of the world?

Like previously mentioned, most of these problems (and their solutions) will arrive at a bottleneck that is the bureaucratic political system we as a society rely on. From the Chinese government refusing to reduce their pollution footprint, to the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott trying to ban investments on renewable energy [2], our problem is the ignorance found on top of the societal pyramid.

 

Sources

 

[1] Differences in Birth Weight Associated with the 2008 Beijing Olympics Air Pollution Reduction: Results from a Natural Experiment - http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1408795/

[2] Tony Abbott has escalated his war on wind power - http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbott-has-escalated-his-war-on-wind-power-20150711-gia3xi.html

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So close you can't ignore it anymore

Relating distance to the feeling of responsibility.

Relating distance to the feeling of responsibility.

How his story should have ended...

Just like so many others, I too saw the page-filling image in last week’s papers of the three-year-old boy Aylan, washed up the shore nearby Bodrum, Turkey. He drowned when he and his family tried to escape the war in Syria. The images of the boy lying face-down on the beach and being carried away by a Turkish police officer shocked people all across the world, including myself and probably you, and became a symbol for the entire refugee crisis Europe is facing. No wonder the photos formed an inspiration for many cartoonists, an example of which is shown above this column. As Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, said:


“This tragic image of a little boy who’s lost his life fleeing Syria is shocking and is a reminder of the dangers children and families are taking in search of a better life. This child’s plight should concentrate minds and force the EU to come together and agree to a plan to tackle the refugee crisis.”


For me however, this raised the question: Why was the world not in such a state of shock before this image came out? Isn’t the refugee crisis already going on for months, or actually years even? Haven’t we seen the numbers of refugees that drown or lose their lives otherwise each month? Aren’t we a little late with statements like the one by mister Forsyth?


As I was thinking about this, I realized that when I saw this image, it was the first time that the refugee crisis came so close. You can easily imagine this child to live in your neighborhood, running around on the playground with his ball. To be the son of that couple you always run into at the supermarket. Maybe even to be a friend of your own little child.
And it is at the exact moment a thought like that comes to your mind, that you start realizing that this is not a risk that the family of this little boy should have been forced to take. That you start feeling responsible for his tragedy.


This is an example of how distance, whether it be a mental or physical distance, influences our feeling of responsibility. The same case can be made for the Trolley Problem, a famous thought experiment in ethics. For those of you who don’t know it: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway track, about to override five people that are tied down to the track ahead of the trolley. You are standing next to a lever with which you can lead the trolley to a different track, where only one person is tied down. Most people agree that it is justified or even your moral obligation to pull the lever and save four lives, by killing just one person instead of five.


But what if you are twenty miles away from the lever, seeing it happen on a television screen? Or on the other side of the continent, reading about the situation in a newspaper? That’s ringing a bell, right? Although in these situations it is way easier to just close your eyes, pretend you don’t know about it, think you are not responsible for the problem, in fact it makes no difference. You should still try to run those twenty miles to the lever, or call someone to pull the lever for you, or go on the streets and demand action from the government regarding the refugee crisis. We should all take our responsibility here, individually as well as a collective, and then we might be able to work out a solution for the dilemmas we are facing.


A solution that will be too late for Aylan, but maybe in time for all those children that we don’t see pictures from, but should feel an equal responsibility for.

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The Core of Human Nature

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Values create the standard of a persons behavior, they influence how we make decisions and effectively run our lives. They can be instilled in us or we can choose to adopt them from our social environment such as family, religion, friends etc. One thing is certain,  our values are constantly changing.

When we have strong and positive values, they will be integral to achieving what we want in this life and following our purpose in it. These vary from individual values such as honesty and loyalty to common group values such as safety, openness, trust and integrity. It is easy to say that at the core of being human are the invisible strings of values pulling you towards what you find relevant in life.

Though it is important to keep in mind that values are not goals. Goals are targets. A simple illustration that can help to clarify the difference between values and goals is that of the difference between “keeping the oceans clean” and “not littering”. “Not littering” is a value: it is an ongoing activity that can be expressed in your actions throughout your life. At any moment in your life you can choose to be guided by, and act on, that value or choose not to. “Keeping the oceans clean” is a goal: it can be completed or achieved by actively following your value of “not littering”. A value is the action you take to achieve what you want : your goal, thus a value is nothing without its goals as a goal is nothing without the values that drive it.

It is obvious now that values and goals play an important role in society, but where does responsible innovation come to play a roll in this? Innovation is a goal in itself, and responsibility is a value. Where is the balance between the two?

This is quit a difficult question to answer, as there actually really is no answer to it. Acting responsibly is a value that we all idealize in our current environmentally weak world. We want to innovate responsibly to create a stronger, better and cleaner environment. This is our goal. Now comes the tricky part. As I stated before values are undoubtedly one of the strongest aspects of human nature, but the goal of getting ahead in life -or simply said- surviving, is also at the core of human nature. The question that is at hand now is which one weighs heavier on the scale of importance. The value of responsibility or the goal of success?

Personally I think the whole dilemma pointed out above is the central reason why the earth is at the place it is now. The balance of goals and values has been shifted in a negative way, creating the sticky environmental situations we are in now. Humans quickly act in their own interest, but responsibility is a value that also concerns the interest of others and their well being. Is collectively feeling responsible for our innovations and how we leave the earth behind for others also at the core of human nature? 

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The struggle of preserving morality when meeting demand

Week 1 - Applied Ethics.jpg

What struck me after having our first few lectures within the minor Responsible Innovation is that most innovations are a direct response to demand. Engineers and innovators look for holes in the market or already existing products that need improvement. That is why forward-looking responsibility carries such high importance when considering new innovations. The idea behind new products or systems is that they exceed their predecessor in order to benefit society. What we were taught in the first week of this minor is the importance of ethics and morality within this continuously changing world of innovation. At first I had trouble comprehending the importance of applied ethics when creating new innovations, especially the weight that was given to this topic by making it the first topic that we were brought into contact with. Personally I believed the real trouble lay within the world of technicalities, where the right techniques are not yet in our reach to realize universal goals such as the UN Millennium Goals  and the EU’s Grand Challenges. Truth be told we were taught that you cannot rank specific elements of the puzzle. Instead you need all the necessary elements, whether it comes down to technique or moral responsibility, in order to give power and legitimacy to an innovation that might benefit the world. To put these ideas into context we were asked to ponder about the issue of refugees, and to consider the individual and collective responsibility that this problem introduces. I found it quite compelling that we were able to give current world issues a place within the framework of this minor, and test the existing angles to approach problems that require innovation.

The idea of linking technology with a sense of morality is crucial when new ideas are tested and introduced in society. This brought forth the issue of moral overload, a notion explaining the struggle in finding the perfect balance between privacy, sustainability, efficiency, security, and accountability amongst many other values. If no one can be held accountable for new technologies, we clearly miss a framework in which to operate and improve our innovations. The example of ‘the problem of the many hands’ gave a good picture of a constantly occurring problem regarding responsibility. It is for this reason that the importance of ethics should not be undervalued, when it comes down to new innovations in our society. Technology by itself is not sufficient to create the world that we are working for, by slowly improving every necessary building block. It is the strength of responsibility that allows us to realize new technologies. In my eyes the innovations that arise when faced with difficult truths are the most intriguing ones, seeing as innovating is all about looking forward instead of taking a backward-looking responsibility approach.

After being faced with the true importance of ethics and morality in the creation of new innovations, I understood why this was the first topic to be addressed. Engineers, designers and innovators have to take into account each other’s work in order to prevent unnecessary accidents, which would result in the search for moral responsibility amongst its participants. needed to reach the universal goals that we create. Whether it is the designer drawing out the plan, the engineer creating the machine, or the person using the final product, accountability will never lose its importance. 

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From materialism to self-realization

Collumn.jpg

‘I consume therefore I am’ describes a wide spread mentality of the western society in the 21st century. You can argue that there are more aspects involved but if you take a look at the amount of waste and unnecessary goods we produce I think that statement gives a quite good reflection on the modern society. You are what you own! However with a growing awareness of the consequences of our behavior and the climate change as a continues reminder of the earth negative evolution, people start to rethink and change their attitude. You can observe a shift from materialism to self-realization.  To me a great example of that shift is the current development of how the refuge problem is handled in Germany.  Where people donate huge amounts of goods to cover the daily needs of the refugees. Let me illustrate how that initiative came up and how it is organized with the example of the city Bremen.  There it all started in mid July with a Facebook post of a girl who had visited a recently set up refugees camp. Disturbed by the shortage of basic needs as shampoo, toothpaste etc. she made a Facebook post with a list of things needed and the request that people prepare  package so she could pick it up and bring it to the refugee camp. This post had a mind blowing effect. Within 2 days her friends and their friends… had shared her post a couple of thousand times. Not only did people prepare packages with the things listed but there were also a lot of them going directly to the camp with stuff they thought would be useful to the refugees. Surprised by the wave of solidarity the police had no choice but to send the people and their stuff back home. The missing coordination made efficient and effective distribution of  the goods impossible. Given that three youngg citizens of Bremen decided tot start organizing the distribution of the the goods. Visiting all refugee camps, making lists of what is needed where and posting that on their newly made Facebook page “Flüchtingshilfe Bremen” they started bringing structure to the flood of support. From basic staff as shampoo and clothing to books, board games and sports gear people donated everything they would not need any more or they thought it would be for better use to the refugees. To me this example is a responsible innovation on multiple levels.  The people as a collective find a solution to tackle a problem of society. Especially interesting to see is that they do it self-organized without support or coordination of the government as an overlooking institution. On an individual level people tried to participate with the possibility’s they had. Furthermore this example to me stands for a shift in the way people behave, act, live. From ‘you are what you own’ to ‘you are what you do’!  From materialism to self-realization!  

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One-Way Traffic: A hazardous misbalance created by human being itself

© Global Warming Images / WWF

We  live too fast. Too fast to enjoy and to give something back. Today I read an article on a huge research done by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on sea life. The name of this report was the Living Blue Planet. The article was published on the NOS news site and removed from it half an hour after publication. Probably the news wasn’t that entertaining. But anyway; the research stuck to my mind. To summarize the paper in one sentence: human being is destroying the ocean. The report shows a decline of 49 per cent of marine populations, of which 34 per cent lived in coral reefs. In 2050 we could lose all the coral reefs we now so greatly enjoy and need. Causes? Failing fisheries, climate change and…we. Yes, we are the root cause of all this. We all are killing the nature we live in.

Today we need to buy as much cheap (bad) products as possible to satisfy our needs. It even does not have to be bad, we just need something to satisfy ourselves. Garbage? Plastic? Mother nature surely is creative, she can get rid of that. In somewhat extreme words ‘all what matters is me’.  But it comes down to the same core; we as human being think in one-way traffic. Nature gives us food, water, wind, sun and beauty. In fact I believe our Creator all gave this to us to live on this earth. For free we enjoy all the good sides of nature. Some have more water, some have more sun, but we all get it. And we enjoy it, and what is wrong with that? Why would we worry?

In fact everyone recognizes him or her in the previous paragraph, including myself. We all like to receive and satisfy our needs. But why do not pay attention to the source we all get it from? The problem is; the profits outweigh the (current) costs. Today’s fishery makes trillions of dollars, bad produced products are just way cheaper than special responsible products. We just don not experience the unbalance in our daily lives. Why giving something back when we do not see it’s positive impact?

A change in mindset is necessary. People live as individuals in the here and now. During this course I started to think with another mindset: we live collectively for the future. We have the collective moral responsibility to look after our future generations. In Dutch we have a beautiful word for that: ‘rentmeesterschap’. We are so called agents to look after the nature. We have a duty to do that. That is possible, by thinking in possibilities. The Living Blue Planet Report ended with a list of great opportunities for communities to secure a living ocean. The only thing we need? A change of mindset: live for the future to enjoy now!

Only by collectively changing our mindset the human race will continue to enjoy all the beautiful gifts nature has for it.

Corné Smaal / Business Administration / Erasmus University

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Self-centred plastic soup

Individuals have a lack of moral responsibility for plastic waste to achieve collective action on the plastic soup

Individuals have a lack of moral responsibility for plastic waste to achieve collective action on the plastic soup

Plastic soup in stomach bird

The plastic soup is one of the main ecological problems in the world at this moment. I knew of the term plastic soup and that there is a lot of plastic in the ocean but after some research I realized how big this problem really is. At this moment there are soups with plastic in the ocean even bigger than the United States. However these are not the only places where the plastic is found. It is found almost everywhere in the ocean and there are beaches where the tide brings in so much plastic that the sand isn’t even visible anymore.

Research shows that in seafood a lot of plastic is being found. Many people eat seafood so we consume plastic as well. Research has shown that these plastics coming from the water are a health risk. It doesn’t only affect people but many animals as well, they are found death with plastic in their stomach. I think this should be enough reason to do something. We should all take collective action on this waste problem in oceans.

The difficulty is that many people do not realize how big the problem is, just like I didn’t realize it. Anna Cummins, co-founder of Gyres Institute, notes this as follows:

"One of the difficulties with this plastic issue is that it's so hard to engage the public in feeling the urgency... People want to see an island of garbage, and when they see images of blue waters, they think that it's not really a big deal."

On top of that nobody really wants to do something about the waste because it takes time and effort to do so. It is very easy that your waste just disappears when you throw it away. Doing nothing to prevent the plastic soup is for their individual rational self-interest at this moment the best option. This is because it costs time and is more expensive to for instance throw your waste in a dustbin than to just drop it on the ground. Our society today is really focused on the individual, you. People want themselves to be happy no matter what it may cost others.

So people miss a motivation to do something about it. The motivation at this moment for people should be a moral motivation. A motivation that is founded on the idea that you’re not alone on this world, that we have a world to care for and that the next generations will be able to live healthy as well. Right now a lot of people are living only for their individual benefits and do not feel responsible for the plastic soup in the ocean. We should all wake up and take collective action to solve this ecological problem which influences the whole world. When we do we will all be responsible for a cleaner ocean and in this way a cleaner and more healthy world.

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The dark side of a Smart City

In 1945, asbestos was thé solution in building technology: it was strong, star, isolating and furthermore very cheap. The new material was used in all types of buildings and even for the brakes in cars. But through the years, perceptions changed. In the 60’s the first warning related to health issues concerning the use of asbestos came forward and in 1998 it became finally forbidden. No one could have expected the effects this new material caused to society, or could they have?

In 1945, asbestos was thé solution in building technology: it was strong, star, isolating and furthermore very cheap. The new material was used in all types of buildings and even for the brakes in cars. But through the years, perceptions changed. In the 60’s the first warning related to health issues concerning the use of asbestos came forward and in 1998 it became finally forbidden. No one could have expected the effects this new material caused to society, or could they have?

Smart City.jpg

This is one of the examples of a new innovation that ended badly. Innovation happens in every field, however the focus here will lay on innovation in the architecture-field. We live in a time where sustainability is more important than ever. This implements the role of architects: they create the living spaces for the next generation. There are thousands of innovations in architecture, for example: solar-panels, 3D printing, new isolation materials and so on. Architects create the environments where people live, and of course people want to have a comfortable living. That’s why innovation in this sector is so valuable, it effects someone’s home and someone’s comfortable space. 

A new interesting innovation in architecture are the Smart Cities. The concept of Smart Cities is to combine digital technologies and ICT to increase quality and performance in urban services. Smart City applications are developed with the goal to improve the management of urban flows and allowing for real time responses to challenges [1]. An example of a city that aims to be a Smart City is Amsterdam which uses these devices in projects to reduce traffic, save energy and improve public safety [2]. Smart Cities claim to be a harmony between a material and virtual world[3]. I think the word ‘harmony’ is a doubtful choice. That's because it will take a lot of agreements to find harmony between a physical, nearby world and a virtual, global world. Until now the way people live is something personal and something private. Do I agree that companies and governments intrude in my personal space?

Let’s do a test. I’m sorry it’s only for IPhone users. Go to General>Privacy>Location Services>System Services>Frequent Locations. Here you go, a list of all the exact addresses you’ve recently been. They know exactly where you’ve been. Apple or somebody else… as a big brother who’s watching you?

For me it’s no problem that Smart Cities are using big-data for something good. But because big-data are a new phenomenon there are no conventions how to deal with it. My concern is comparable to the asbestos-problem. They used asbestos in almost every building before they realised the trouble it brought. Dr. Moores said about Smart Cities: ‘Smart City development has focused on technology, not people; cost-savings, not security; and top-down, not bottom-up approaches.’  As Moores explains, “the persistent collection of data about people’smovements also raises privacy concerns something that some city’s citizens are beginning to push back against.”[4]

To prevent that it becomes an asbestos-problem and people lose their faith in Smart Cities, I advise that this can only be a success when it’s clear who is responsible and there are plain agreements about what to do and not to do. In a changing world where innovations are needed and sustainability is so valuable, architects have got to realise they bear a serious responsibility in using innovations and thinking one step ahead.

 

 

 

1.  Komninos, Nicos (2013-08-22). "What makes cities intelligent?". In Deakin, Mark. Smart Cities: Governing, Modelling and Analysing the Transition. Taylor and Francis. p. 77.ISBN 978-1135124144.

2. Amsterdam Smart City. "Amsterdam Smart City ~ About ASC".  Source: http://amsterdamsmartcity.com/about-asc

3. Taewoo Nam and Theresa A. Pardo ( 27-9-2011). Smart City as Urban Innovation: Focusing on Management, Policy, and Context. Resource: : http://www.ctg.albany.edu/publications/journals/icegov_2011_smartcity/icegov_2011_smartcity.pdf

4. Dr. Simon Moores, 17-05-2015, IFSEC conference Resource: http://www.darkreading.com/vulnerabilities---threats/smart-cities-4-biggest-security-challenges/d/d-id/1321121

5. Image: 'The dark side of a Smart City', made by Lisa Gerards

 

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Synethetic Biology Revolution: Responsible Innovation

Synbicite is the UK's center for the commercialization of synthetic biology. Through promoting it responsibly, the center's main aim is to provide societal solutions through biological innovations; while taking environment and societal security into account. Via medium like vaccines and pharmaceutical solutions to major diseases like malaria, this is truly a great example of how responsible innovation can unlock great potential in society.

Synbicite is the UK's center for the commercialization of synthetic biology. Through promoting it responsibly, the center's main aim is to provide societal solutions through biological innovations; while taking environment and societal security into account. Via medium like vaccines and pharmaceutical solutions to major diseases like malaria, this is truly a great example of how responsible innovation can unlock great potential in society.

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Innovation has brought about many changes to society, increasing range of products and services available to consumers, meeting market demands, and even increasing life expectancy. Through new research into medication and artificial enhancements, many have been able to live longer, healthier lives. It is clear what innovation brings to a society, economy, and a nation as long as its repercussions are minimized. Responsible innovation is putting out new designs and functionalities, institutions, and conceptualizations while meeting moral obligations of the corresponding stakeholders. You will be hard-pressed to find a company/team more in accordance to this term that Synbicite; a team of scientists and entrepreneurs who understand the benefits responsible innovation can bring to society.

Synthetic biology, in its simplest terms, is the innovation of artificial parts, devices, and systems to cure major societal problems such as environmental health, pollution, and hunger. 

By taking vaccines first as an example, this form of innovation can speed up processes of production and improve performance. 

 When the bird flu was a major problem back in 2003, production processes took at least a year before enough vaccinations were available and ready for distribution. Via synthetic biology, this process time could be almost halved and could have prevented many fatalities from occurring. Synbicite is working on solving major societal issue while keeping production of poultry stable and efficient.This can be extended to most disease vaccinations, and could be put to use with regards to the "Swine Flu" that wreaked havoc years ago.By working with a variety of stakeholders, they can anticipate environmental, economic, and societal implications of arising diseases or other problems to meet needs and concerns of the masses. Through this, Synbicite can direct their innovation processes towards public benefit and meeting key societal challenges.

It is significant to say how Synbicite is immersed in the application of responsible innovation so far, and is crucial to understand how the general public or the masses are aware and engaged in these biological projects. Responsible innovation captures all stakeholder interests, and those not involved should at least be aware. It is crucial for a team so mindful of synthetic biology, that the public must be acknowledged to help them understand the implementation and ramifications of such an innovation. Synbicite thus works hand in hand with commercialization partners to help the public understand all benefits, risks, timelines, and resource utilization, to avoid overstatements and possible conflicts. This is truly a great initiative to where the research done into this biological field can take into account the economic, environmental, and societal aspect in an effective manner.

Synbicite truly takes a right step in the direction of responsible innovation, and should be a template for similar entrepreneurs and researchers of any field. As a member of today's society, I find it extremely important to be aware of these biological inventions and understand the benefits it can bring to society when carried out responsibly. At first glance, anything artificial sounds unnerving to say the least. How can we trust it? And how do we know future repercussions and be prepared for them? These questions must be addressed to unlock the potential of synthetic innovation; and by working side by side with economic representatives, biology researches and doctors, and society can bring about benefits to all these stakeholders while at the same time, providing solutions and preparation for the future.

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Syrian refugees; one train crash away

This week the courses for my minor ‘Responsible Innovations’ really started off. In Delft we were confronted with series of dilemma’s concerning responsibility of their stakeholders, ethics and ways of finding solutions to the occurring problems.

This week the courses for my minor ‘Responsible Innovations’ really started off. In Delft we were confronted with series of dilemma’s concerning responsibility of their stakeholders, ethics and ways of finding solutions to the occurring problems.

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The streams of Syrian refugees entering Europe have been dominating the media the past week. No one appears to know where to shelter them and no one seems to take responsibility for their well-being. This is why the topic makes such good example for a dilemma. 

I would like to use the ‘Trolley dilemma’ as a metaphor for the situation in which the European governments currently are;

In the trolley dilemma is a run-away train, representing the major influx of refugees, on the verge of killing five persons that are tied to the rails.
These five persons symbolize the many people that would die if Europe will keep on denying to take in more refugees.

On a side track, connected to the rails by a switch, is a 6th person tied to the rails. This 6th person would be the people currently living in Europe that are against sheltering all those many refugees. 
At the side of the tracks, a passenger sees the situations and is able to pull a lever. The passenger, in this case, is the European governments. Pulling the lever will change the switch ahead of the train, causing it to take the side track. In this situation the train would kill only the 6th person.

If Europe chooses to take the dilemma to the 6th  person's side of the story, the government will feel the fury of their own population. The same fury that the minister of social affaires Lodewijk Asscher encountered recently, when he tried to explain people why an asylum centre for the refugees will be build in 'their backyard'.

This metaphor provides perspective to which responsibility our government has towards the refugees. After all, everyone would agree that abandoning the refugees to their own fate is wrong. Unfortunately, pulling the lever and actively killing the 6th person would be wrong as well.
One would ultimately have to conclude that the passenger isn’t able to make a right choice, as all the possible answers are wrong.

A better solution would be to not put all responsibility on the last agent; the passenger/Europe governments. The solution has to be found in the core of the problem rather than to blame an innocent man for whichever choice he has to make in his dire position. In the case of the refugee problem, this reasoning eventually will lead to the understanding of the necessity of stopping the terrible civil war in Syria which has led to the major streams of refugees.

 

Responsibility lays largely in the hands of the Syrian government and its rebels. Putting an end to this war and giving twelve million people back their homes should be their main concern. Instead, they choose to bomb each other. Clearly, these parties cannot come to a solution for their problems. That is why military intervention by Europe, Turkey and the Gulf-states is needed.
The Syrian government and it’s rebels has made this war just as much our problem as it is theirs by forcing their citizens onto our borders. Therefor I call out to the United Nations to finally intervene, so 12.000.000 humans can return to their homelands, as well as allowing whole Europe to breath peacefully again.

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What is an opinion worth, without insight?

The (never) ending debate on sexting.

The (never) ending debate on sexting.

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In the last decade the amount of people using social media has grown tremendously. I believe that all this sharing on the internet has changed our culture. People nowadays share pictures and opinions so easily on the internet without really thinking about the consequences. In most cases you don’t have to, but in the case of sexting you do. I’ve had several pictures of naked girls that have been send to me by friends in Whatsapp groups. Many people consider forwarding these pictures wrong, but who is to blame?

Sexting happens a lot and it doesn’t always end badly. People have their own reasons to send nude pictures to their boy(girl)friends. They trust that the receiver will keep this picture for him(her)self as the picture is meant for their eyes only. But when the receiver breaks this trust and sends the picture to other people, these things tend to go viral. This is the last thing the sender wants. For the world to see the senders private parts and not being able to erase the images.  
At this part a problem evolves for the sender, but who is causally and morally responsible for the problem?

The sender: You can’t argue that the person sending nude pictures to someone else, is not causally responsible. If they didn’t make the picture in the beginning and send it to someone, there would have never been a problem. The discussion is often more about the moral responsibility of the sender. In most case the sender trusts the receiver to look at the pictures and not sending them to anyone else. If there is no trust, I wouldn’t think anyone would send inappropriate pictures to anyone. I think the moral responsibility depends a lot on the trust-bond. If there is a high level of trust, then you can’t say the sender is fully moral responsible for photo leakage. When there is a (very) low trust-bond, then I do think the sender is fully moral responsible.

The first receiver: Usually, I believe, sexting happens between just 2 people. The sender and the receiver. In this one to one situation I call the receiver the “first receiver”. This person has now pictures of someone else, but is in a sense free to do whatever he wants to do with them. You can argue that the true problem of nude pictures going viral starts here. If this person decides to break the trust-bond and sends the pictures to someone else, I don’t care to how many other people, I find this person fully causal and morally responsible even if this person has another trust-bond with the second receiver!

The second receivers: These people had nothing to do with the sexting in the first place, but now have some naked photos of a girl (or guy). Of course there are third and fourth and fifth receivers, but that doesn’t matter. They all have in common that they received nude pics from someone other than the person who send them these. A lot of these people tend to forward these pictures in different groups making it a problem of the many hands.
By sending the pictures I think they are morally responsible for creating the problem. Although they might not know the person in the picture, they do know what kind of consequences the leakage of these pictures can have for this person.
I do have my doubts about these people being also causally responsible for the problem. In my opinion the problem started when the first receiver forwarded the pictures. The second receivers are the ones that create the size of the problem. Therefore you can say they are somehow causal responsible for the problem, but since they didn’t start the problem, I say they are not.
Therefore I disagree with people that say that you can only be morally responsible if you are also causally responsible. I believe one can be morally responsible for something, but not truly causally. The last party connected to the problem is a clear example of that in my opinion.

The social media: in my opinion the social media is morally responsible, but in no way causal. Since this problem makes play on social media, I argue that they are morally responsible for the problem. I believe that SM has to make at least an effort to help solving/preventing the problem. Facebook and YouTube use technology to prevent pornographic and erotic appearing on their websites. I think SM like WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook) can also make use of these technologies. I think they could create an option that, when you send a picture to someone, WhatsApp askes you if you would like the receiver being able to forward this picture. This ensures that once the picture is send to someone, the receiver can’t forward it to other on WhatsApp. Of course this would not solve the problem completely, but at least in this way WhatsApp contributes in preventing the problem. I believe they can do such a thing and that they are moral obliged  to create this technology. That would be a great Responsible Innovation in my opinion. 

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TTIP: take responsibility

About us getting disadvantaged by our own government and the EU, which should be there to stand up and take responsibility for our safety and well-being.

About us getting disadvantaged by our own government and the EU, which should be there to stand up and take responsibility for our safety and well-being.

EU and US: an unsolvable misfit?

Responsibility; [ri-spon-suh-bil-i-tee]; noun, plural: responsibilities. 1. the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one's power, control, or management. Fortunately, it is a word of which it is quite unnecessary to provide the definition, assuming everybody knows its meaning. Nevertheless, economic benefits can still cause malpractices to happen. Even sadder is that the specific malpractices I am writing about, are not even the responsibility of companies or individuals. We are getting disadvantaged by our own government and the European Union, which should be there to stand up and take responsibility for our safety and well-being. Now I can hear you thinking, what is this all about? The answer is TTIP, a trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.

On the website of the government of the Netherlands, the following is written: The European Union (EU) and the United States (US) are currently negotiating a trade agreement known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Dutch consumers and businesses stand to gain from this deal. This sounds promising, fair and responsible and thus not problematically at all. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In the agreement it is stated that food and products checked in Europe do not have to be checked in the United States and vice-versa. One should consider the fact that in Europe the requirements for the quality and safety of foods are rather strict, leading to a very high standard. In the US, this is not always the case. The agreement called TTIP makes it possible for the US to transport their food and products that are until now not being sold in European supermarkets to Europe. As a result, in the future you might just buy a chlorine-cleaned chicken at your local super market, threatening your well-being. Now as a Dutch citizen, I ask myself the following question: How can an agreement like this come to be?

Firstly, the political steps made are kept secret on the international level. The European Union has forbidden the publication of the agreement so strictly, that even national politicians have to travel all the way to Brussels to a special reading room where the texts can be viewed under tight security. To stop this secrecy, WikiLeaks has even promised a reward for the person who will share the contents of TTIP. How dark is the particular matter, if the EU does not even trust their own politicians?

Also on the national level, the policy used to accept this agreement is far from fair. According to a research in 2014, only 18 percent of the Dutch people had objections against a partnership between the EU and the US. One should note that this partnership was not further explained, so no the results were purely there to act in a quasi-responsible way. Fortunately, the protest is growing. This year, already 43 percent of the Dutch citizens are against TTIP and even more important: 61 percent of the Dutch citizens with knowledge on TTIP are against the agreement. The reason for this rather slowly upcoming opposition might just be the fact that in order to accomplish their own economic goals, the EU and also specifically the Dutch government are not transparent enough.

Now let us get back to the definition of responsibility, as stated in the introduction. One can only be responsible within its one’s power, control, or management. Since the Dutch government and the European Union do not let us citizens choose, they take the responsibility and therefore they should come up with a better alternative than this highly controversial TTIP.

 

 

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Sources:

[1] Responsibility (definition): http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/responsibility

[2] TTIP – a trade agreement between the European Union and the United States: https://www.government.nl/topics/ttip

[3] VPRO thamadossiers – Bang of blij met TTIP: http://www.vpro.nl/themadossiers/ttip.html

[4] Lang Leve Europa! – Tagarchief: ISDS: http://langleveeuropa.nl/tag/isds/

[5] EU doubles down on TTIP secrecy as public resistance grows: http://arstechnica.co.uk/tech-policy/2015/08/eu-doubles-down-on-ttip-secrecy-as-public-resistance-grows/

[6] Wikileaks looft belonging uit voor tekst handelsverdrag TTP: http://www.nu.nl/buitenland/4104489/wikileaks-looft-beloning-tekst-handelsverdrag-ttip.html

[7] Zondag met Lubach – fragment: http://www.npo.nl/zondag-met-lubach/04-10-2015/VPWON_1243304/POMS_VPRO_2183978

[8] TTIP image: http://barnhard.nl/tag/ttip/

 

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A salary raise with a bad outcome

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Last week I was walking through Amsterdam and someone in the street came to me and asked me if he could ask some questions about the reputation of the ABN Amro bank. The bank is owned by the government since it had to be saved on the verge of bankruptcy in 2008.  This bank has had some very bad publicity in the last weeks because of a salary raise for the board members. It wouldn’t surprise you the salary raise of €100.000,- caught the media’s attention. In no time it raised a lot of anger under the employees of ABN Amro and the rest of the Dutch society. Everybody was asking their self the question: “How can someone raise their salary with such a ridiculous amount after all the horrible mistakes they made, which we as society had to fix?”

The minister of finance had to answer to the second chamber why he had approved the salary raise of such a proportion. The minister told the second chamber that this salary raise is in accordance with the agreements they made when they nationalized the bank in 2008, on which the second chamber agreed. Next to that these salaries are conform the market and they need to be this high to keep the best people in the board to make sure the stock market launch will go smooth. The minister’s effort to explain the raise was in vain, and harm in the media had been done. The president of the supervisory board was fired and the stock exchange launch was postponed.

The question raised by the interviewer: “Is it fair that ABN Amro got so much bad publicity while doing something that was in accordance with the agreements and approved by the ministry of finance?”  This made me think and I came to the conclusion that it isn’t fair ABN Amro got a lot of bad publicity. The board just awarded a salary raise which was in line with the market, and the supervisory board didn’t want to lose the employees to competitors who were offering a better salary.

This raises a lot of new questions when we look at it, but I think what is more important that we ask who is responsible in this regard. Is it the press who reported the news in such a way everyone had to dislike the salary raise, is it the second chamber who were not well enough informed about the agreements made in 2008, did ABN Amro have to go along in de high salary demands of the board.

In this problem of many hands probably every actor is a little bit to blame for the way things turned out, but I don’t think those are the ones who are really to blame. The interviewer’s second question “Who is to blame for this situation?” I had to answer with that I think it lies on a deeper level and it could be the whole crooked banking world that is created over the years. Who do you think is responsible?

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Hydrogen as a substitute for oil: the responsible-side of responsible innovation

Responsible Innovation teaches us about important features that need to be kept in mind when innovative ideas arise: from hazards to individual and collective responsibility. Now let’s take a closer look at these concepts while analyzing a hot topic in energy-world today: hydrogen.

Responsible Innovation teaches us about important features that need to be kept in mind when innovative ideas arise: from hazards to individual and collective responsibility. Now let’s take a closer look at these concepts while analyzing a hot topic in energy-world today: hydrogen.

The Hindenburg Disaster in 1937

Where the supply of oil decreases and its effects on Earth become more and more visible, alternative and, more important, renewable energy sources are being considered as a serious substitute for oil (in fact, there is no other way). The list of renewable energy sources varies from bio-energy to solar and wind power and energy from hydrogen. This last energy source needs further analysis. Although energy delivered by hydrogen doesn’t cause side effects like the emission of greenhouse gases - which are globally known as the main cause of the current global warming - and can be used as an energy carrier in liquid form (where electricity can’t be stored). Still the large scale implementation of this energy source (and energy carrier) stays out. One of the main reasons of this absence is the safety issue around hydrogen. Like Ricci explains in her paper (2006), the wide range of concentrations over which hydrogen/air mixtures are flammable or explosive is common known and used as the basis from which to argue whether hydrogen is more dangerous than current fossil fuels.

Now the question arises whether hydrogen could possibly be a serious candidate for a sustainable future. Several studies show on the one hand that energy from hydrogen can be safely produced and used, as well for transportation as for domestic use (miraculous when you know just a little bit of air, which is everywhere, is enough for an explosion). But how about the general attitude and public acceptance towards a large scale implementation of this method? Big accidents like the Hindenburg disaster in New Jersey and the explosion in Frankfurt in 1991 (Rigas, 2005), cause of both disasters was an explosion due to hydrogen, inspired fear towards the use of this element. Can hydrogen be a serious substitute for fossil fuels in the near future?

It’s irresponsible to think that hydrogen can function as energy source for particular use in the near future. With topics like these I’m starting to ask whether we nowadays have shifted our preference from the essential safety of individual humans to the urge for collective sustainability (focusing on emissions). However, key element of sustainability is the safety of mankind. So how could driving in a car that’s powered by a tank, which could possibly explode, be sustainable at all? And how about domestic use of hydrogen? The last thing people want is living in an explosive atmosphere! Of course, experts try to minimize, if not take away these hazards but what if explosions occur? Who is to blame? Lab researchers, the car industry, third parties?

As long as the fundamental part of responsible innovation - that is responsible - isn’t taken enough into account, there can’t be innovation. Responsible innovation has to avoid situations like the Trolley problem, where there needs to be made a decision between 1 or 5 deaths. With hydrogen for particular use, I’m asking rather this can be achieved. However, responsible innovation of our energy supply stays a collective problem. We, as ‘ordinary’ citizens, can do our part by trying to decrease our energy demand and lower our standards. And the experts can do their part by taking responsibility into account. Electric vehicles for example are a much less dangerous option for the conventional engines than hydrogen vehicles.

It now looks as if we’re asking for more and more, without taking the Earth into account. Leave the car at home twice a week, use your bicycle. Use public transport for longer distances. Turn the light off when it’s not necessary. And turn the television off when you’re not watching. As long as we don’t use our energy in a responsible way, how can we expect innovation is?

 

Sources

 

Ricci, M., Newsholme, G., Bellaby, P., & Flynn, R. (2006, March). Hydrogen: too dangerous to base our future upon?'. In Institution of Chemical Engineers Symposium Series (Vol. 151, p. 42). Institution of Chemical Engineers; 1999.

Rigas, F., & Sklavounos, S. (2005). Evaluation of hazards associated with hydrogen storage facilities. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 30(13), 1501-1510.

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Robots are taking over the world

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Some things what the creators of the movie ‘Back to the Future 2’ from 1989 thought would happen in the year 2015, actually happened. Also the drones, which are flying robots, exists. Unfortunately, drones are a danger for air traffic, because the onboard radar of the airplane can’t see it. They also can be used in wars. Because the development of these kind of robots went so fast, the rules for producing and use where not sharp yet, which is the cause of these dangerous drones (Askthepilot, 2015). If we already must deal with the consequences of these kind of robots, what will happen in 25 years by now? The things moviemakers and also ourselves are imagining what will be there in 25 years, will be partly true, just as they were 25 years ago. I think robots will be the same as human beings by then. Or maybe we are living in a dictated world with the power in hands of the robots.

The scientist Stephen Hawkin (Voets, 2015) says: ‘Computers in the coming 100 years will be more intelligent than humans because of artificial intelligence. When this happens, they must have the same goals aligned as humanity.’ This is a scary thought, do I want robots to be smarter than I am? And now I’m also thinking about things as hacking. The system must be inscrutable to prevent hacking. But if robots are smarter than human, than it is not possible to create a system by human which is inscrutable, since robots will decrypt every code. I think it will be easier for terrorists to get power by creating an army of robots. Because it is clear that also people within the terrorists group will know a lot about creating robots, they can create ‘mean’ robots with bad intentions. And these robots are smarter than we are, so the robots itself could create other robots. A robot invasion will happen.

We must take a step back in this kind of technology, artificial intelligence. It is not fair for innocent people to push robots throughtheir throat, while they don’t want it. It seems the scientists who are developing the artificial intelligence are moral responsible for the consequences the robots will have. And the governments who must set clear rules, are collective responsible toward mankind, so also they must prevent awful consequences of robots. Because it is clear. When we’re developing robots as fast as we do now; robots will definitely taking over the world.

 

Askthepilot (2015). Drones are in the news again. Consulted at the 22th of October 2015, Retrieved fromhttp://www.askthepilot.com/the-drone-danger/

Voets. J (2015). Stephen Hawking: 'Robots nemen de wereld binnen 100 jaar over' Consulted at the 22th of October 2015, Retrieved from http://numrush.nl/2015/05/14/stephen-hawking-robots-nemen-de-wereld-binnen-100-jaar-over/

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Waiting for real collective responsibility to come

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Taking down flight MH17 goes into history as a crime with a bitter taste. It’s a clear warning of the time we are living in right now. But what are we going to do about it when our Defence isn’t taken serious enough? Do we act responsible in this way?

Who actually took down the plane isn’t truly discovered yet. The investigation of the disaster and bringing back the bodies of the two hundred ninety eight passengers caused mixed feelings. The care for the bodies and the bereaved took place with great dignity. The process of finding the ones who shot down the plane and bring them to court became actually more a political game to avoid the discussion than a case of justice. What we, in any case, can conclude is that we, as a country, haven’t learned from our mistakes.

A lot of the Dutch people were praising the way of dealing with the deceased persons and their relatives. But there was also, especially short after the disaster, a shared feeling that bringing justice to the offenders should happen soon. Our Prime Minister has stated that also short after the disaster. We’re thirteen months further and no single offender has got his punishment yet for the crime he committed. That’s not only a failure of the Dutch and international justice system, but also another smack in the face of the relatives. We had the Special Forces to support the investigation teams, but the government was afraid of escalation. After such a crime, shooting down innocent people, you have to send a signal that you indeed do everything to bring this national disaster to, at least, an honest and fair end.

Our Defensive forces get there budget cut every year. Their tasks however stay the same: defend our country, our economic properties and our allies all over the world. The missions to Mali and our fight against ISIS are extended with another year. For the past years, hundreds of millions where taken from the budget for the Ministry of Defence. They needed at least three milliard to make some progress in their plans, they got two hundred fifty to three hundred seventy-five million. This sounds the same as the situation before World War II. More and more tensions everywhere in the world, but we save on our Defence. We have a commitment with the EU member states that we spend at least 2% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on Defence. The Netherlands are currently at 1.2%. We are on head when it comes to meeting EU standards, but the ones concerning our safety aren’t that important apparently.

I applied for the part-time job at the National Reserves (NATRES) a few months ago. The people who are working there are anxious about their future. Sometimes they don’t even have the materials to exercise. There will be savings on the budget for the NATRES. That’s regrettable because these part of Defence prepare people for society, bring them discipline, respect for a superior and give them the skills to survive in hard circumstances. They also protect several important events and buildings, like recently the Nuclear Top in The Hague.

Still the Parliament don’t want to invest heavily in Defence, which is absolute necessary. At this moment we are losing experience and knowledge. Our safety is worth a lot, but apparently not when economic problems are present. As a collective we have to agree that our safety is the most important factor the government has to take into account for their citizens. We have a moral duty to protect freedom, to ourselves but also to other population groups who are threatened.

I am willing to do everything in my power to secure our main human right: freedom. But as long as that we are not willing to pay for this as a collective and take our responsibility to mankind, it is waiting for the next disaster to happen. 

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