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Track thyself?: the value and ethics of self-knowledge through technology


Leuenberger, Muriel (2024). Track thyself?: the value and ethics of self-knowledge through technology. Philosophy & Technology, 37(1):13.

Abstract

Novel technological devices, applications, and algorithms can provide us with a vast amount of personal information about ourselves. Given that we have ethical and practical reasons to pursue self-knowledge, should we use technology to increase our self-knowledge? And which ethical issues arise from the pursuit of technologically sourced self-knowledge? In this paper, I explore these questions in relation to bioinformation technologies (health and activity trackers, DTC genetic testing, and DTC neurotechnologies) and algorithmic profiling used for recommender systems, targeted advertising, and technologically supported decision-making. First, I distinguish between impersonal, critical, and relational self-knowledge. Relational self-knowledge is a so far neglected dimension of self-knowledge which is introduced in this paper. Next, I investigate the contribution of these technologies to the three types of self-knowledge and uncover the connected ethical concerns. Technology can provide a lot of impersonal self-knowledge, but we should focus on the quality of the information which tends to be particularly insufficient for marginalized groups. In terms of critical self-knowledge, the nature of technologically sourced personal information typically impedes critical engagement. The value of relational self-knowledge speaks in favour of transparency of information technology, notably for algorithms that are involved in decision-making about individuals. Moreover, bioinformation technologies and digital profiling shape the concepts and norms that define us. We should ensure they not only serve commercial interests but our identity and self-knowledge interests.

Abstract

Novel technological devices, applications, and algorithms can provide us with a vast amount of personal information about ourselves. Given that we have ethical and practical reasons to pursue self-knowledge, should we use technology to increase our self-knowledge? And which ethical issues arise from the pursuit of technologically sourced self-knowledge? In this paper, I explore these questions in relation to bioinformation technologies (health and activity trackers, DTC genetic testing, and DTC neurotechnologies) and algorithmic profiling used for recommender systems, targeted advertising, and technologically supported decision-making. First, I distinguish between impersonal, critical, and relational self-knowledge. Relational self-knowledge is a so far neglected dimension of self-knowledge which is introduced in this paper. Next, I investigate the contribution of these technologies to the three types of self-knowledge and uncover the connected ethical concerns. Technology can provide a lot of impersonal self-knowledge, but we should focus on the quality of the information which tends to be particularly insufficient for marginalized groups. In terms of critical self-knowledge, the nature of technologically sourced personal information typically impedes critical engagement. The value of relational self-knowledge speaks in favour of transparency of information technology, notably for algorithms that are involved in decision-making about individuals. Moreover, bioinformation technologies and digital profiling shape the concepts and norms that define us. We should ensure they not only serve commercial interests but our identity and self-knowledge interests.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Center for Ethics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Philosophy
Dewey Decimal Classification:100 Philosophy
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Philosophy
Social Sciences & Humanities > History and Philosophy of Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:Self-knowledge, Bioinformation, Algorithmic profiling, Relational identity, Ethics of self-knowledge
Language:English
Date:1 March 2024
Deposited On:21 Feb 2024 09:04
Last Modified:22 Feb 2024 21:00
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:2210-5433
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-024-00704-4
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID202889
  • : Project TitleNeuroimaging, Personal Digital Records and the Narrative Self: How Different Kinds of Self-knowledge Alter the Self
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)