Wessel Reijers


Below is a list of courses that I have developed and taught at the University of Vienna and at the Technion in Haifa. I’m also adding the syllabi of the courses, to the inspiration of others. If you have (critical) thoughts about those, I’m always happy to hear!

2022-1 Ethics of Emerging Technologies

Emerging technologies like AI, the Internet of Things, and Blockchain Technology, have an increasingly transformative impact on people and society. In this course, students will be introduced to the different ways to theorise emerging technology, reflect on its ethical impacts, and use practical tools to integrate ethical reflection in day-to-day projects.

The course consists of three parts. The first part covers the basics: presenting major ethical issues with emerging technologies from a historical perspective, explaining the link between ethical theories and technology, and presenting different ways to think about technological mediation. The second part focuses on ethics of particular types of emerging technologies: of artificial intelligence (e.g., deep learning), artificial life (e.g., genetic modification) and existential machines (e.g., the atomic bomb). The third part contextualises the ethics of emerging technologies in a discussion of three global challenges: global citizenship and human rights, climate change, and violence.

The course uses methods of philosophical reflection, argumentation, empirical and historical research, and applied ethics.

2022-1 Argumentation Theory in Philosophy

Argumentation is everywhere: we argue at home, at school, at work, in the courtroom, and in parliament. As such, argumentation is the basis of how we live together and form a society. In this course, students will be equipped with basic argumentation skills. They will learn about rhetorics, the use of logic in arguments, and most importantly – argue in practice.

The course consists of lectures followed by in-class exercises in argumentation. It consist of three parts. In the first part, we cover the basics of argumentation and logical arguments. In the second part, we explore the essentials of critical discussion and forms of reasoning. In the third part, we look at ways argumentation can go wrong, exploring fallacies and biases.

2022-2 Political Cybernetics

Cybernetics is both a historical scientific field and a general worldview. Martin Heidegger once famously proclaimed that cybernetics represents the end of philosophy, understood as Western Metaphysics. It is the end of philosophy because metaphysical thinking is overcome by the global technical system in which we live. It therefore encapsulates and influences many aspects of our lives: our work (think of electronic performance management), love life (think of all those dating apps), social life (think of social media), but also, and perhaps foremost, political life. It is even with political life that original cybernetic thinking started, namely in the work by philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, who likened political governance to the steering of a ship, in which the primary role way played by the Kubernetes, the pilot.

This course focuses on the political implications of the cybernetic worldview: how cybernetics informs our thinking about politics, but also how our political systems are shaped by cybernetic principles.

The course focuses on a number of core readings that should give students a comprehensive insight into the topic of political cybernetics. It starts with an exploration of the origins of political cybernetics in political philosophy. Continuing, it looks at a variety of philosophical critiques aimed at evaluating the significance of the cybernetic paradigm. The course then turns to exploring historical examples of cybernetic systems used in governance, such as Cybersyn in Chile. Following this, it looks at how cybernetics has impacted contemporary political and legal philosophy, such as the thought of Carl Schmitt. With this in mind, the course discusses several paradigmatic cybernetic systems that have emerged in the 21st century:

The course uses methods of philosophical reflection, argumentation, empirical and historical research, and political philosophy.

2022-2 Blockchain Governance

This course explores the potential challenges and opportunities of blockchain governance. In the early days, key proponents of blockchain technology have proclaimed that it would redefine legal and political governance. Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious inventor of Bitcoin, argued that blockchain technology would make trust in government redundant, and perhaps even make government obsolete. Gavin Wood, a co-founder of Ethereum, claimed that blockchain-based systems are fundamentally alegal; they are akin to a force of nature that facilitates a radically new social contract, a new  form of governance that subsists beyond the reach of the law. Are these realistic predictions or mere fantasies and speculations?  

Over the years, the rapid development and proliferation of blockchain technologies has spurred debates in the humanities and social sciences concerning the legal, social, political, and ethical impacts of these technologies. How will blockchain technology reshape trust, legitimacy, legality, and politics? Can it provide an answer to some of the age-old problems in legal and political theory, or will it simply replicate and perpetuate politics as usual?  

These questions are difficult to answer in a definite manner. Yet, what seems certain is that blockchain technologies and the communities surrounding them have caused a Cambrian explosion of governance experiments. Some have been spectacular failures, while others still hold interesting promises.

This course provides a detailed overview of existing blockchain governance practices to investigate the impact of blockchain-based systems on a variety of domains, including law and public policy, economics and politics, as well as ethical and environmental issues. With the recent deployment and growing adoption of blockchain-based systems, it has now become urgent to establish a constructive debate around what constitutes ‘sound’ governance of and by blockchain technology, before the current forms of blockchain governance become entrenched.

© 2022 Wessel Reijers

Thema door Anders Norén