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Ethics and Technology
TU DelftTU EindhovenUniversity of TwenteWageningen University
Ethics and Technology


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The New Science of Existential Well-being

NEWEL Project
December 2016 - December 2019

Philip Brey

Many large organizations collect and generate massive amounts of data about their employees.  Could these organizations leverage these data to improve the lives of their employees?  This is the main question driving the New Science of Existential Well-Being (NEWEL) project.

The project is a collaboration of academic researchers in philosophy (from the University of Twente), in artificial intelligence (from the University of Amsterdam), and in organizational psychology and happiness economics (from Erasmus University Rotterdam), along with human resources professionals and data scientists from Ahold Delhaize.

The question of how an organization should use big data to increase the well-being of its employees immediately raises two more specific questions.  First, which dimensions of well-being ought an employer attempt to advance?  This question hinges on philosophical issues about the nature of well-being and the justness of focusing on well-being in the context of other organizational objectives.  It also depends on empirical questions, which require experimentation and data analysis, about what sorts of policies or interventions might advance well-being.  Second, what policies will ensure that an employer uses big data about its employees in an ethically responsible manner?  Not only is this a question in business ethics; it engages emerging questions about responsible data science, and these questions can be answered satisfactorily only by philosophers and data scientists working together.

Intended outcomes of the NEWEL project include:

  • Methods and software for data gathering and analysis of employee well-being in large organizations
  • Ethical frameworks for the use of big data for organizational decision-making, especially about employee well-being
  • Empirical results regarding the relationship between employee well-being and organizational performance
  • Concrete guidance for policies and interventions to improve employee well-being at Ahold Delhaize and other large organizations