If human life is dependent upon material support, then any artificial support designed by people will foster certain ways of living which afford some advantages while limiting or excluding other alternative realities. Objects made by humans may not have an independent value system of their own, but they act as mirrors, reflecting the values of those who designed them. Therefore, it would be incorrect to ascertain that design or technology are themselves amoral or pre-moral in that, the making of the world is the very realisation of an envisioned reality, that has first been imagined or desired by the people whose choices are then actualised through design and technology. This paper analyses the writings of Langdon Winner and Jürgen Habermas to discuss the distinctions between the grown and the made; nature and culture; the human and the artificial. While Winner debates the ethical boundaries of things designed by people, Habermas reflects on the ethics of designing people. Arguably, humanity has reached a point where it can design itself only because, before, humans have created and recreated an artificial world governed by technological progress: A world in which, now, technology and science have made it possible for people to design not only things, but also other people. The dynamic between these dilemmas – what world should humans design, and whether humans should (re)design humanity itself – will guide a reflection towards a design ethics, and its implications to the education and practice of future designers.
Assistant Professor, School of Design, San Fransisco State University, California, United States
DESIGN ETHICS, TECHNOLOGY, INNOVATION, GENETIC ENGINEERING, JURGEN HABERMAS, LANGDON WINNER