In this paper I argue that in cases where technologies provide material answers to moral questions that arise in the use context, they can and should be characterized as moral proxies acting on behalf of a person. Because of this we can accurately characterize the moral link between designers, artefacts and users as a relationship of a particularly moral kind. Moral proxies of the human kind have been a topic of analysis for some time in healthcare and bioethics, making them a good starting point for thinking about moral proxies of the artefactual kind. I draw from bioethics and STS literatures to build an analogy between human moral proxies in healthcare and artefactual moral proxies. I then turn my attention to design ethics considerations. If we accept that artefacts can function as moral proxies it becomes important to recognize that designers can subject users to paternalistic relationships that are ethically problematic. I demonstrate how we can use a proxy analysis as a tool for evaluating technologies. I argue that there are situations in which engineers should use proxy analysis to avoid paternalism by design while simultaneously improving user autonomy.

Additional Metadata
Keywords autonomy, design ethics, driverless cars, engineering ethics, internal cardiac defibrillator, machine ethics, paternalism by design, proxy analysis, robot ethics, self-driving cars
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1109/ETHICS.2014.6893388
Conference 2014 IEEE International Symposium on Ethics in Science, Technology and Engineering, ETHICS 2014
Citation
Millar, J. (2014). Technology as moral proxy: Autonomy and paternalism by design. In 2014 IEEE International Symposium on Ethics in Science, Technology and Engineering, ETHICS 2014. doi:10.1109/ETHICS.2014.6893388