The Ethical Implications of Science

I’m moderating a discussion next week on the ethical implications of science. How will our society prepare for future science breakthroughs? We’ll discuss bio concerns like cloning, longevity, and designer genes, and macro concerns like privacy.

If anyone knows of good articles or ideas around this (very broad!) topic, please let me know. Thanks.

6 Responses to The Ethical Implications of Science

  1. Dani says:

    artificial wombs–from popsci.com :

    “She may also have glimpsed, in that moment, the far-out future of human reproduction, vitreous and shifting. Thanks to her research and others’, man-made mouse wombs could be a reality within a decade—and a stepping stone to artificial human wombs. Eventually, these baby incubators could supplant natural ones. Conception could be clinical, and birth bloodless. Gestation could be detached from motherhood, and a fetus could be viable from the instant that sperm and egg fused.

    Or not. Days after cheerfully percolating, Liu’s rodent fetus died, deformed and contorted, more seahorse than mouse, a developmental freak. The same thing happened to the next fetus she implanted, and the one after that. “Making babies is more complicated than we imagined,” Liu says. “And we knew going into this that making babies is very, very complicated.” ”

  2. Kun Lung says:

    Check out Nick Bostrom:
    link to nickbostrom.com

    I also like this:
    link to kurzweilai.net

  3. Shefaly says:

    How about discussing how technologies-already-at-hand have created moral dilemmas that we do not know how to handle? For instance – freezing eggs/ embryos when parents are younger, and then bearing them to full term and delivery when more convenient and suitable.

    Freezing eggs/ embryos, then ‘parents’ split up and ‘father’ withdraws consent on ground of his human rights and ‘mother’ meanwhile has lost her ability to conceive naturally due to cancer treatment, court rejects ‘mother’s’ right to bear children over ‘father’s’ right to withdraw consent… This is the summary of the case of Natalie Evans of the UK. Not one religious leader in the UK weighed in, although I wonder how the US might have reacted. Is it wrong to give precedence to the rights of a living adult over the rights of a zygote yet to be borne? Is it ok to create cryogenically frozen embryos for convenient pregnancy later?

    Why are we so squeamish about research involving embryonic stem cells and about hybrid/ chimeras, but gingerly ok about accepting organs farmed in animals? How does this acceptance evolve?

    Are humans essentially a ‘higher’ life form than animals? If so why are some animal rights activists so up in arms about animals in pharma research?

    It should be great to hear what your forum finds. Thanks.

  4. I think the the ethical and social consequences of cryonic restoration of human bodies might be an interesting topic.

    Even if cryonic restoration were an accomplished fact right now, and it were possible to jump start consciousness to restore ‘me’, I wouldn’t want to be ‘brought back’.

    Imagine what a nightmare it could be for a human if he were transported to another planet with intelligent life, even assuming that its inhabitants were reasonably similar to us and we could communicate with each other. It’s extremely unlikely that the ‘reality’ that evolved on this ‘alien’ planet, such as its history, its cultures, and its mores, would be intelligible to him.

    Being cryonically restored 50 years from now on earth might not be so bad, but what if ‘I’ weren’t restored until 500 years from now? The dissonance between my reality and the reality of earth’s people then might be as disorienting as being stuck on an alien planet. That could truly be a living hell.

  5. Brian Carnell pointed to an interesting article in the Economist
    link to economist.com
    Story.cfm?story_id=6909483

    which discusses the development of the anti-sleep drug, CX717.

    I was amused by this sentence in the Economist article:

    “Prompted by some energetic marketing on the part of drugmakers, scientific journals are already ablaze with excited talk of “conquering sleep”, asking whether humans will become the first species to dominate both daytime and night-time”.

    As if humans aren’t already diurnal and nocturnal…I really don’t consider sleep something to be conquered, I rather enjoy it. I can see where frantic overachievers might be delirious about the prospect of using all those precious hours now being “wasted”, but I think it’s possible that sleep may have restorative powers that refresh more than just the brain/body. Dare I say that our creative souls might find sustenance in that ‘down’ time?

    If dreams are the mind’s way of processing the events of a waking day (who knows?), it would be interesting to see if lack of an active dream life is stultifying for someone who chooses to ‘cure’ that pesky sleep habit with drugs like CX717.

    Rather than eliminating sleep, I’d be more interested in enhancing alertness and attention span during usual waking hours (I wonder if it would help people who insist on using a cell phone while they drive?). I’m certainly not opposed to chemically-induced exploration of consciousness, but I shudder to think of the innovative ways those ultimate purveyors of materialism, the pharmaceutical companies, will choose to market the ampakines. I presume they will hail these drugs as the vanguard of paradise engineering for the human condition.

    If scientific journals really are ‘ablaze’ with excited talk of “conquering sleep”, then the ‘fix’ is in.

  6. Shefaly says:

    Cognition enhancement drugs are a big discussion point in the UK at the moment. I posted about it today and thought that may be of interest to you as well. Thanks.

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