Justice as such is not a new idea. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, justice has been conceived as a moral and political standard of how people ought to conduct themselves and relate to one another in a fair society and institutions. However, even though principles of justice and related theories have been used to provide guidance to social and political actions, technological innovation remains an area of policy and practice in which justice cannot be easily applied. This is not only due to the complex process of generating new technologies and their unpredictable impact on social relations and institutions but also to perceptions of value neutrality in the innovation process. Such perceptions make public policy difficult to sustain. Nevertheless, innovation is a human action that is guided by both ethical norms and interests and is significant for justice. Emerging technologies create opportunities for promoting justice, but at the same time, they also pose risks to injustice. This paper is of theoretical nature and aims to explain why justice needs to provide the normative direction of innovation systems and related public policy in the 21st century. Through a critical review of the literature, the paper argues that justice as such is a non-ideal standard which is significant for the legitimacy of emerging technologies and related developmental change. The normative direction of innovation systems in the 21st century depends on non-ideal principles of equity, participation, and recognition. These principles embody sustainable public-policy solutions to problems of unequal generation and diffusion of emerging technologies.
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