Technology, Law & Ethics

Exploring legal, ethical and social dimensions of emerging technologies

Exploring legal, ethical and social dimensions of new technologies

Emerging technologies in the field of artificial intelligence, biotechnology, neurotechnology and ICT promise to improve human communication, health, reproduction and cognition. Ultimately, in that process, these technologies may transform the human condition itself. In this minor you explore the novel legal, ethical and societal dilemmas raised by these developments. You analyse, discuss and critically reflect upon the most important legal-ethical frameworks in this field, as well as recent and ongoing public and political debates on these technologies.

One of the major challenges for governance of this field is that these technologies are radically questioning central legal-ethical principles, such as responsibility, dignity, autonomy, freedom and privacy. What do these concepts mean for the regulation of emerging technologies? Are they still credible in the light of recent scientific findings?

What makes this interdisciplinary minor truly unique is its focus on the underlying values within the regulation of advancing technology. During the minor, you will not only analyse and discuss academic literature, but also news items, documentaries, public and political discussions and advisory reports.

To get a better idea of some of the themes that will be discussed in this minor, you can watch the series De Volmaakte Mens (HUMAN/VPRO). Or you can have a look at this interview with Yuval Noah Harari on his 2016 book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

Period 1
Governance and Regulation of Emerging Technologies (6 ec)

This course introduces various regulatory instruments for the governance of emerging technologies, such as legislation, self-regulation, self-disciplining technologies, patents and other intellectual property rights, standards, etc. You will discuss these regulatory instruments in and apply them to the context of various disruptive technologies and their applications, such as Uber and bitcoin.

Robot law and Artificial Intelligence (6 ec)

This course discusses the possibly radical impact which the autonomy of technological constructs may have on today’s society, in close connection with its ethical consequences and legal implications. Among the topics that you will discuss are intelligent software, intelligent robots, drones and nano-bots. You will be trained to take a legally and ethically argued position on the consequences of the increasing robotisation of society.

Period 2
Philosophy and Neuroethics (6 ec)

In this course you are introduced to the most important schools of thought and key concepts in philosophical and ethical debates on the impact of neurotechnologies on society, more specifically, on healthcare and criminal law. Topics include the problem of mind and brain, history and philosophy of neuroscience, and assessments of criminal responsibility in light of neuroscientific developments.

Data Analytics and Privacy (6 ec)

In this course you analyse and discuss the legal and ethical aspects of business analytics and data science. One of the main themes in the course is the role of fundament rights and legal principles in the regulation of these issues, with a general focus on the right to privacy.

Period 3
Law and Ethics of Reproductive Technologies (6 ec)
In this course you explore the legal-ethical dilemmas that are raised by technologies at the intersection between genetics and reproductive medicine. These technologies make it possible to genetically screen, choose and, possibly, even design one’s future children. How can societies decide who may access these technologies to create what kind of children? Topics include prenatal testing, ‘designer babies’ (e.g. CRISPR), reproductive tourism, and commercial surrogacy.

For specific information about each course please visit our studyguide

Students from all faculties of VU University and of other universities can apply for this minor, if they have obtained 90 EC. For students from the faculty of Law this requirement does not apply.

Please see the application procedure for more information.

If you have detailed questions about the contents of the programme, please contact:
dr. Britta van Beers, LL.M | E-mail:

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