Science and ethics

Science is not neutral. It depends on how it is used

"...science has shaped the modern world and reconfigured almost every aspect of our lives by advancing our understanding of the laws that govern nature and by applying new knowledge to widespread technological enhancements: rockets, robots, cars, computers, smart phones, sanitation, refrigeration, penicillin, Prozac, pacemakers, etc.
In some cases - eugenic sterilisation, synthetic pesticides, lobotomics - science led to demonstratable harm. In others - genetically modified foods, nuclear power, predictive privacy - the question of risk versus benefits continues to be debated.

Science seeks to uncover underlying physical truths and, based on these truths, to construct new capabilities which are not automatically ethically right or in society's best interest. It is up to us, as humans living in a contingent social order, to make those decisions for our greater good, as we define it..."

Doron Weber 2019

The question is How does life science, biology and biotechnology interact with law, ethics and public policies?

It can be claimed that 20th-century breakthroughs in life science are turning areas like biology into a secular religion, eg enshrining DNA, the secret code script for life.

"...Biologists discovered the double helix structure and then the 3-billion-letter sequence of the DNA; they learnt to tinker with the universal genetical code, to amplify it, to transfer it from one species to another and to grow it in a test-tube; they develop molecular scissors to step in and edit that genome, enabling permanent alterations to any species; and they managed to synthesise and engineer new, self-replicating life forms from artificial, non-life sources..."

Doron Weber 2019

Furthermore, the people that dominate the scientific world are predominantly male, white and Western!!!!!

- Investing in the human scale conversation. We need to have a hard conversation that tackle the ethics, morality and underlying cultural philosophies of these new digital technologies. We need to get beyond the conversation around "AI will kill jobs and the "robot apocalypse". We need to ask better questions, ie

What is the history of this technology? Where does it comes from? What are its vested interests? Who are its beneficiaries? What logic about the world is it normalising? What is the broader context in which it fits?

- Striving for accountability. There needs to be accountability, transparentness and openness. How would this be done? Where the duty of care lies in this new data-driven version of our smart, fast and connected digital world? How do we build the world that is not about our worst impulses, but our best? How could we help combat inequality? How do we develop the appropriate registry and policy framework? Who should own the data? How do we ensure that all the stakeholders fully understand these new technologies and infrastructures before they are released?

- Making our own futures. Do we want to be part of the new data-driven smart, fast and connected world or just another colony of some transnational, commercial empire? How much do we value our privacy? How much do we value our sense of being human, ie reflect our humanity, our cultures and our cares?

"...The future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed..."

William Gibson as quoted by Genevieve Bell, 2017

 

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