Federica Russo appointed Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Techno-Science
Understanding the impact of science and technology in society
The executive board of Utrecht University has appointed Federica Russo as Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Techno-Science at the Freudenthal Institute starting from August 1st. Additionally, Russo will be the new Westerdijk chair holder, a position especially installed to be occupied by a female professor. As a philosopher of science, technology and information, Russo will focus her research on applications of complexity theory on human health and on human-technology interactions.
Science and technology are rapidly advancing, transforming our lives, and determining the future. Philosophy of science and philosophy of technology are two fields that focus on how science and technology could and should be accounted for in society. Traditionally, these two fields have been treated as separate disciplines within academia.
According to Federica Russo, there is a lot to gain when philosophy of science and philosophy of technology are integrated more with each other, as science and technology are innately connected. Therefore, she revived the term ‘techno-science’. Russo: “To fully understand and control the impact of science and technology in society, both should be regarded as integrated phenomenon instead of separate.”
Within techno-science, ethics play an important role, indicates Russo. “The ethical component often comes at the end or is only seen as the watchdog to make sure that things do not go wrong. I would like to develop a line of research and teaching in which we really see ethics integrated in the way we do science and technology.”
Russo believes that philosophy positively contributes to the development in the sciences, so that science and technology can advance in a way that is ethically sound, socially responsible, and aligned with human values.
I would like to develop a line of research and teaching in which we really see ethics integrated in the way we do science and technology
Complexity theory and human AI-interaction
In her role as professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Techno-science, Russo will mainly focus her research on two related areas. Firstly, she will contribute to the development of an approach for philosophically analysing the methods used in social and health sciences. With this approach, she hopes to incorporate complexity theory in the methodologies in these fields, meaning that health is studied as a complex phenomenon. According to Russo, this perspective can change how we understand and intervene on health and disease. Secondly, she will explore how technologies affect the way we produce knowledge, particularly focusing on interactions between humans and artificial intelligence (AI). Russo is interested in how humans and machines can work in partnerships, in scientific contexts and in everyday life.
The Freudenthal Institute
Russo thinks that the location of the Freudenthal Institute, which is situated at Utrecht Science Park, will add to the quality of her research. By being physically closer to science and technology, she sees a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between philosophy and the scientific community. “If you have a shorter physical distance to science and technology and the people that do these things, hopefully you can also have a better dialogue.”
Apart from her role as professor in Philosophy and Ethics of Techno-Science within the Freudenthal Institute, Federica Russo was appointed the Westerdijk chair. This is a position especially installed to be occupied by a female, internationally acknowledged professor. The position is named after Johanna Westerdijk, appointed at Utrecht University in 1917 as the first female full professor in the Netherlands. A Westerdijk Full Professor is a scientist with a focus on open-science and expertise in one or more of the areas studied by the groups of the Freudenthal Institute: Science Education, Mathematics Education, History and Philosophy of Science, Public Engagement and Science Communication, and Digital Technology and Education.