Digital sustainability: Ethics, epistemology, complexity and modelling
Keywords:Digital Sustainability, Determinism, Ethics, Epistemology, Complexity Science, Modelling
The growing attention to digital sustainability can arguably be linked to climate change and digital transformations as major megatrends rapidly altering our collective present and future. The current Russian-Ukrainian war and the recent pandemic, however, have both raised uncertainty over the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achievement and the role of technology and innovation for sustainability. Without ignoring the dramatic consequences for people, the Ukrainian war can be deemed as a significant shift in geopolitics and global energy policies, with a short-term return to fossil fuel and commitments to renewable and clean energy transitions. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst for a more pervasive diffusion and adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs) transforming our lives and notions of sustainability. By considering the disruptive impact triggered by the pandemic, this paper aims at advancing awareness and knowledge of digital sustainability and at drawing a coherent framework of arguments including ethical and epistemological issues, taking into account the approach of complexity science. This will be essentially carried out by considering digital sustainability as “the convergence of digital and sustainability imperatives that involves a trans-disciplinary approach of deploying digital technologies in tackling sustainability issues” (Pan and Zhang, 2020). Across different interpretations reflected within business and management debates (Sharma, et al., 2021), this definition gives meaning to the concept or construct by specifying operations that must be performed in order to measure or manipulate the concept (Berrío-Zapata, et al., 2021). This paper will focus on the profound transformations of our view of reality by ICTs acting as instrumentarian technologies, and the need to avoid determinism, rethink science-technology relations, and consider the distributed morality of multi-agent ecosystems as significant aspects to further a debate on the trans-disciplinary nature of digital sustainability, including the potential negative impacts of digital technologies on society, economy and environment.
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