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AK2011 Technology and Ethics 7.5 credits

This course focuses on the ethics of modern technologies – their development and use.

The first part of the course - (lectures 1-3 and seminar 1) - provide an introduction to moral philosophy.  Normative theories like utilitarianism, duty ethics and virtue ethics are explained and problematized. We will also discuss other useful distinctions and notions in moral philosophy e.g. moral dilemmas, action guiding and moral relativism.

The second part of the course (lectures 4-10 and seminars 2-4) focus on specific ethical problems and challenges in the field of emerging technologies. Examples include ethical aspects of; AI, self-driving cars, different usage of gene editing technology (site-directed mutagenesis), cognitive enhancement, technology in healthcare (e.g. carebots), privacy and authenticity online etc. We will also discuss concepts such as rights, justice, naturalness, privacy, autonomy, whistleblowing, dual use and risk.

An important part of this course is the course essay which is written individually by the student but supervised by the teacher. This gives the student an opportunity to apply ethical theory and analyze ethical issues attaching to a specific technology which is relevant for their education and of special interest to them. The essay is written throughout the course and each student will get feedback both from the teacher and another student during the work so that they can improve their essay before handing it in.

Choose semester and course offering to see current information and more about the course, such as course syllabus, study period, and application information.

Headings with content from the Course syllabus AK2011 (Autumn 2019–) are denoted with an asterisk ( )

Content and learning outcomes

Course contents

Our point of departure will be practical ethical problems. These will vary each time the course is given but classical examples include conflicts between safety and economy or function, environmental effects of technology, conflicts between the engineer’s professionalism and his/her loyalty to the employer, work with morally dubious technologies, insider problems and industrial espionage, integrity issues related to IT, etc. In order to analyse these issues we will use tools from moral philosophy (ethics). We will acquaint ourselves with important theories from moral philosophy such as utilitarianism and deontological ethics, as well as with useful notions, e.g., moral dilemmas.

An important part of this course is an individually written essay under supervision. This work amounts to a specialisation in an ethical problem that can be selected in accordance with the student’s previous experiences and studies. The main aim of this work is the analysis, from an ethical perspective, of technology relevant to the student’s studies. In order to be able to apply the ethical theories and the tools from the course, substantial familiarity with the relevant technical aspects is required.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of the course, the student should

- be able to account for important ethical theories,

- be able to discuss and analyse, in writing and orally, ethical problems that may arise in engineering work,

- within some engineering or technological field, in a more advanced way be able to analyse ethical problems,

- be able to apply ethical theory and analysis in practical engineering or technological activities.

Literature and preparations

Specific prerequisites

120 credits higher education.

Recommended prerequisites

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- Main course literature (book) will be established no later than four weeks before start of the course.

- List of other literature (articles) will be posted on the course web page at the start of the course.

Examination and completion

If the course is discontinued, students may request to be examined during the following two academic years.

Grading scale

A, B, C, D, E, FX, F


  • DEL1 - Participation and preparatory assignments, 1.5 credits, grading scale: P, F
  • TENA - Exam, 3.0 credits, grading scale: A, B, C, D, E, FX, F
  • ÖVN1 - Home assignments, 3.0 credits, grading scale: A, B, C, D, E, FX, F

Based on recommendation from KTH’s coordinator for disabilities, the examiner will decide how to adapt an examination for students with documented disability.

The examiner may apply another examination format when re-examining individual students.

Other requirements for final grade

DEL1 (participation and preparatory assignments), 1.5 credits, grading scale PF

TEN1 (examination), 3.0 credits, grading scale PF

Övn. (written assignment), 3.0 credits, grading scale A-F

The final course grade is determined by the INL1 grade.

Opportunity to complete the requirements via supplementary examination

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Opportunity to raise an approved grade via renewed examination

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Ethical approach

  • All members of a group are responsible for the group's work.
  • In any assessment, every student shall honestly disclose any help received and sources used.
  • In an oral assessment, every student shall be able to present and answer questions about the entire assignment and solution.

Further information

Course room in Canvas

Registered students find further information about the implementation of the course in the course room in Canvas. A link to the course room can be found under the tab Studies in the Personal menu at the start of the course.

Offered by

Main field of study

This course does not belong to any Main field of study.

Education cycle

Second cycle

Add-on studies

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Barbro Fröding,