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Jim Dratwa

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Jim Dratwa
JimDratwa EthicsMasterclass Brussels March2020.png JimDratwa EthicsMasterclass Brussels March2020.png
🎓 Alma materHarvard University
Université libre de Bruxelles
Mines ParisTech
Imperial College London
💼 Occupation
🥚 TwitterTwitter=
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Jim Dratwa is a Belgian philosopher, author and polymath. His research and publications address the interconnections between innovation, ethics and democracy. He is best known for his work bringing together arts and sciences and humanities, and also bringing together academic work, public service and civic commitment. An important part of his work focusses on values and democracy, social and environmental justice, the relations between green and digital (from climate change to biotechnology to artificial intelligence), and the ethics of transitions.[1][2]

Early career[edit]

Further to his degrees in physics, philosophy, politics and the life sciences, he obtained his Ph.D. in socio-economics of innovation from the Ecole des Mines de Paris, with Bruno Latour, and his Ph.D. in philosophy from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, with Isabelle Stengers, having benefited from the support of the Fulbright program, the Frank Boas Foundation, the Belgian American Educational Foundation and the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique. He received the Fulbright Scholar Award, was Harvard Boas Fellow, Ramón y Cajal Scholar, and was pre- and post-doctoral Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, with the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and with the program on Science, Technology, and Society, with Sheila Jasanoff. In the course of his academic career he has taught at the Ecole des Mines de Paris, Sciences Po Paris, Harvard University, and the universities of Brussels, where he is based. He is also a Distinguished Scholar of the Free University of Brussels (VUB). It is under the Obama administration that he was made Global Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center, whose fellows are chosen based on their record achievements as authorities in their field.[3][1]


Dratwa is a philosopher and STS scholar whose work consists in a systematic consideration and furthering of peace, democracy, solidarity, and societal transitions. His work explores and expands a diversity of literary forms, from poetry and dramaturgy through to policymaking essays, scholarly inquiries, and stories of resistance, sometimes also bringing in installations and game creations, inviting to reinvent the interplay between authors and publics, between the individual and the collective, between institution and imagination, between what is and what could be.[4]

He has served in several positions of responsibility in that regard at the European Commission, notably as member of the Bureau of European Policy Advisers to the President and at the European Political Strategy Centre, the Commission’s in-house think-tank. He is a senior European public servant as well as a professor of public policy, political philosophy and European integration. At the European Commission he heads the team tasked with Ethics in Science and New Technologies, he is the Secretary-General of the EC International Dialogue on Ethics and Bioethics, and the EC envoy to the international organisations dealing with the ethics and governance of science and new technologies (UNESCO, WHO, WTO, ILO, ITU, WIPO, UNEP, UNICEF, Council of Europe, OECD).[5][1] Prior to this he shared his expertise in policy development and strategy, tasked with foresight and better regulation and then with policy analysis and strategy in the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. He previously joined the Commission’s civil society and citizenship policy team, in the Directorate-General for Education and Culture, with a special mandate to develop new political forms fostering participatory democracy across Europe. In 2006-2008, in the framework of the Europe for Citizens programme, Dratwa developed and initiated the first EU-wide programme of transnational participatory and deliberative democratic processes.[6] In parallel, he organised and hosted the European Commission’s community of practice on participation and deliberation – involving active practitioners also working with fellow facilitators developing the art of hosting conversations that matter inside and outside the EU institutions – notably in the context of the European Commission’s Group on "Ethics and EU Policies", which Dratwa convened and chaired as of 2012.[1]

His work draws together policy relevance, philosophical acumen (with attention to decentring and reframing, to power and performativity, to values and existential questions) and the connection with everyday life. This is notable in his early work on the precautionary principle – originating his longstanding development of concepts of care, non-violence, and altruism, alongside his questioning of expertise, sovereignty and othering – through to his books on European integration and on research and innovation policy as well as on social and environmental justice, democracy and the ethics of transitions.[7][8][9][10][11] He has been saluted by the press as one of the leading European thinkers of his generation.[12]

Philosophical lines of inquiry[edit]

Working closely with Bruno Latour, Isabelle Stengers and Sheila Jasanoff, he develops ethnographies of international organisations and their contestations, of the interplay between different forms of expertise and legitimation, of the articulations of science and policy, of knowledge and power and public action, which he starts to analyse as articulations of sense-making and world-making, notably through reconceptualisations of the precautionary principle and the attendant reinventions of regulation, governmentality and sovereignty.[8][11]

His correspondence and conversations with Giorgio Agamben are recounted in his 2017 Preface on surveillance capitalism.[13] Dratwa creates the concept of "Open Beta Society" as a way to shed light on deeply entrenched forms of oppression and exploitation – as well as to bring to light possibilities ("relations") of resistance and reinvention. It is also an explicit reflection on the power plays and performative language games of such framings.[4]

Dratwa’s reflexive approach of conceptual archaeology and reimagination, carefully questioning, deconstructing and reconstructing, drawing together fieldwork and exegesis, storytelling and theory-building, is also directed towards notions of Sovereignty, Dignity, Risk, Responsibility and Good, and this is what he does with Europe and ultimately with "Ethics" itself. This leads him to develop a set of reconceptualisations of ethics: as inquiry, as stories and histories, as quests and questions, as powers and relations, as recalcitrance and poetics, as paradoxes. Central concepts there are those of mesa-ethics and meta-ethics as well as the eye-opening call "ethics inside", a call upon caring and witnessing that is also a call to sense-making and world-making.[10][14]

These trails of inquiry connect together in Dratwa’s concept of the Schemes. The Schemes are performative ways to think, tell, and make the world. The concept of Schemes is elaborated as an explicit outmanoeuvring of the urge to erect generalised systems. Along with "frame hacking", "morality design", and other antidotes to hegemony such as Dratwa’s originative question-concept[15] "What world do we want to live in together?" (with its companion questions: "Who is in the we?" and "Where are the others?"), they are among his concepts of resistance. They also relate to the far-reaching reflection developed by Dratwa on the telling of stories and the creation of concepts. In particular: what forms of recognition and mobilisation, indignation and dignity, emancipation and relation, agonism and peace, care and healing, imagination and transformation do they make possible – and possible together? What transformation of conditions of possibility, or what spaces of possibilities, do they foreclose and do they open? This, in turn, forms the horizon of his ethics of transitions.[4]


Bringing together arts and sciences and humanities, he is a scholar of design thinking and game design as well as an award-winning artist[16] and game author. His game creations are noted for furthering the reflection on engagement and responsibility as well as on dialogue and diversity, through which new narratives and common worlds can emerge: such is the case of Eternity (co-authored with Cyril Blondel), for which he was awarded the 2015 Ludix Prize,[17][18] hailed by critics as one of the best card games ever,[19] about engagement through environmental justice, peace building and harmony. Hao Hao (co-authored with Thibault Quintens) was created to raise awareness concerning biodiversity and endangered species, in collaboration with Pairi Daiza, working with the WWF and participating in the European Endangered Species Programme. Potentia was created with a group of Belgium-based and international NGOs (namely Quinoa, Rencontre des Continents, Oxfam-Magasins du monde) as an "experiential crucible of engagement and social transformation".[20][21] Anansi is explicitly a game about storytelling, a mise en abyme about the relationships between authors and publics as co-creators.[22] Débats Débiles and Moi Président are creative openings to unpack and reimagine democracy. Dratwa has argued that "Games are culture made and in the making, they are created and a catalyst for co-creation, social critique, reflection, emancipation and engagement".[22]

He has consistently developed manifold forms of expression to engage with diverse publics and raise awareness, reflection, and action. While he was tasked to lead the mobilisation on the ethics and governance of Artificial Intelligence at the European Commission as of 2016, he continued to further and to bring together scholarship and policy advice and public engagement. Thus, at the first conference on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence at the largest public robotics event in Europe, in 2017, he was the first keynote speaker.[23] He also gave the keynote launching the International Observatory on Artificial Intelligence in Montreal in 2018[15] and has continued to be consulted by civil society organisations, governments and parliaments in Europe as well.[24] These questions and mobilisations are at the heart of his 2019 book, Dans quel monde voulons-nous vivre ensemble? ("What world do we want to live in together?").[10] It is also in 2019 that his game Robby One (co-authored with Cyril Blondel) came out, an open reflection on human-machine relations and human-human relations, inviting to experience and reimagine artificial intelligence through collective intelligence.[22]

His work is marked by its systematic inquiry into the articulations of knowledge, values and action. Alongside scholarly pursuits, he is a community builder, a facilitator and host, engaged in service to the community as well as academic and international public administration activities. His involvement as facilitator and convenor also extends to the voluntary sector, in particular in inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue, social justice and peace building, locally as well as internationally. In this context, he is also active as advisory board member in community organisations, charities and learned societies at national, European, and global level.[25][26][27][28]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Biography of Jim Dratwa at the Bureau of European Policy Advisers to the President of the European Commission, Archived 2014-11-21. The institutional curriculum vitae is directly available, Archived 2014-11-21.
  2. Woodrow Wilson Center institutional biography for Jim Dratwa, Archived 2015-03-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "Wilson Center announces its Global Fellows, chosen based on their record achievements as authorities in their field". Retrieved 3 November 2018. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Reber, Bernard (2019). "Preface". in Dratwa, Jim. Dans quel monde voulons-nous vivre ensemble ?. London: ISTE Editions. pp. 2–4. ISBN 978-1-78405-555-4.
  5. "Ethics of Genome Editing", March 2021, p. 107. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  6. "Europe for Citizens" programme overview, May 2008. Retrieved 28 October 2019. For the evaluation: Eureval (2013). "Measuring the impact of the Europe for Citizens programme", Final report, Paris: Eureval. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  7. Dratwa, Jim (2002). "Taking Risks with the Precautionary Principle: Food (and the Environment) for Thought at the European Commission", Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning (Special Issue on Risk and Governance). Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 97–213.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Dratwa, Jim (2011). "Representing Europe with the Precautionary Principle", in Jasanoff, Sheila (ed.) Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
  9. Ugur Muldur, Fabienne Corvers, Henri Delanghe, Jim Dratwa, Daniela Heimberger, Brian Sloan, Sandrijn Vanslembrouck (2007). A New Deal: For an effective European research policy, The Hague and New York: Springer.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Dratwa, Jim (2019). Dans quel monde voulons-nous vivre ensemble ? : éthique et Europe. London: ISTE Editions. ISBN 978-1-78405-555-4. OCLC 1125273654. Search this book on
  11. 11.0 11.1 Latour, Bruno (2004). Politics of Nature: How to bring the sciences into democracy. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 281, 290, 304.
  12. Thaidigsmann, Michael (28 May 2020). "Der Ethiker sind Sie selbst". Jüdische Allgemeine (in German) N°22/20. There is also a summary available online (31 May 2020) (Retrieved 10 October 2021) although that is not the full article.
  13. Dratwa, Jim (2017). "Preface: Ethical Experimentations of Security and Surveillance as an Inquiry into the Open Beta Society", in Friedewald, Michael et al (eds.), Surveillance, Privacy and Security: Citizens’ Perspectives, London: Routledge.
  14. More specifically on Risk, see: Dratwa, Jim (2007). "Risque, Rixe, Rhizome: Guerre et Paix avec l’Analyse des Risques et les Organisations Internationales", in Kermisch C. & Hottois G. (eds.), Techniques et Philosophies des Risques, Paris: Vrin.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Langlois, Lyse (17 April 2020). "La technologie à la rescousse du monde à venir?". Le Devoir (in français). Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  16. Dratwa is one of the 18 laureates of the Art à l’Agenda 2010 contest, the outcome of the contest is Archived here 2014-09-05 and his work is Archived here 2014-12-18, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. Ludovox (2016). "Eternity: les jeux de plis sont éternels". Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  18. Huet, Michel (25 November 2015). "Chapeau aux lauréats du 6e festival de la création de jeux!", La Montagne (in French). Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  19. The Dice Tower (10 September 2020). "The best trick taking games of all time: Top 10". Tom Vasel, Zee Garcia and Timm Metivier. Retrieved 27 September 2020. See detailed review at 01:11:50.
  20. Quinoa (2017). "Potentia". Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  21. Teret, Céline (2016). "Potentia: le pouvoir d’agir". Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "HeidelBÄR publishes Anansi by Jim Dratwa and Cyril Blondel". Retrieved 27 October 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  23. Robotex 2017, "Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics", programme. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  24. Chambre des représentants / Kamer van volksvertegenwoordigers (2019), "Robotics and digital agenda", DOC 54 3725/001. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  25. "ALLAI Foundation: Advisory Board". Retrieved 7 November 2019. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  26. The Future Society: Advisory Board. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  27. Observatory for Responsible Innovation, 2014 Report. Debating Innovation 2014 Vol. 4(1): 1-8. Retrieved 11 December 2019.
  28. He is Head of Imprint and book series editor in the fields of philosophy, ethics, political science and sociology, together with Bernard Reber, for the international SCIENCES encyclopaedia. Retrieved 11 October 2020. Retrieved 2 October 2020.

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