The age-old maxim of scientists whose work has resulted in deadly or dangerous technologies is: scientists are not to blame, but rather technologists and politicians must be morally culpable for the uses of science. As new technologies threaten not just populations but species and biospheres, scientists should reassess their moral culpability when researching fields whose impact may be catastrophic. Looking at real-world examples such as smallpox research and the Australian “mousepox trick”, and considering fictional or future technologies like Kurt Vonnegut’s (...) “ice-nine” from Cat’s Cradle, and the “grey goo” scenario in nanotechnology, this paper suggests how ethical principles developed in biomedicine can be adjusted for science in general. An “extended moral horizon” may require looking not just to the effects of research on individual human subjects, but also to effects on humanity as a whole. Moreover, a crude utilitarian calculus can help scientists make moral decisions about which technologies to pursue and disseminate when catastrophes may result. Finally, institutions should be devised to teach these moral principles to scientists, and require moral education for future funding. (shrink)
The authors outline the way in which documents as social objects have evolved from their earliest forms to the electronic documents of the present day. They note that while certain features have remained consistent, processes regarding document authentication are seriously complicated by the easy reproducibility of digital entities. The authors argue that electronic documents also raise significant questions concerning the theory of ‘documentality’ advanced by Maurizio Ferraris, especially given the fact that interactive documents seem to blur the distinctions between the (...) static documents (or ‘inscriptions’) which form Ferraris’s starting point, and dynamic software processes. The authors argue further that the Ferraris view as applied to legal documents is flawed because of the fact that courts may treat contractual obligations as enduring even in spite of a complete absence of enduring inscriptions. Finally, the authors note that traces in brains, another important family of inscriptions (as Ferraris conceives them), differ significantly from genuinely documentary inscriptions by their lack of public inspectability. (shrink)
The recent debate arising from leaked emails from a UK-based research group working on the issue of climate change is another in a long string of historical lapses that periodically threatens public confidence in the institutions and methods of science. As with other similar events, it did not have to happen. What should concern us is that the accepted methods and practices of science have once again to be shown to be too easily set aside, ignored, or broken due to (...) human frailties. Years of research are now in question, publications must be viewed in a new, more skeptical light, and research programs that might have no direct relation with the one involved in the controversy are affected. One response to scandals like “ClimateGate” is to renew an oft-repeated call for increased openness in the sciences. The apparent disappearance or alteration of data, and its implications for the trustworthiness of published results of ongoing research suggests strongly that a more transparent, open, and accessible system could have prevented personal inclinations or policy concerns, even if benevolently motivated, from undermining the indifferent and detached progress of climate science. (shrink)
Much of the discussion regarding nanotechnology centers around perceived and prosphesied harms and risks. While there are real risks that could emerge from futuristic nanotechnology, there are other current risks involved with its development, not involving physical harms, that could prevent its full promise from being realized. Transitional forms of the technology, involving “microfab,” or localized, sometimes desk-top, manufacture, pose a good opportunity for case study. How can we develop legal and regulatory institutions, specifically centered around the problems of intellectual (...) property, that both stimulate innovation, and make the best possible use of what will eventually be a market in “types” rather than “tokens”? This paper argues that this is the most critical, current issues facing nanotechnology, and suggests a manner to approach it. (shrink)
Human research ethics has developed in both theory and practice mostly from experiences in medical research. Human participants, however, are used in a much broader range of research than ethics committees oversee, including both basic and applied research at technical universities. Although mandated in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, non-medical research involving humans need not receive ethics review in much of Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Our survey of the top 50 technical universities in the (...) world shows that, where not specifically mandated by law, most technical universities do not employ ethics committees to review human studies. As the domains of basic and applied sciences expand, ethics committees are increasingly needed to guide and oversee all such research regardless of legal requirements. We offer as examples, from our experience as an ethics committee in a major European technical university, ways in which such a committee provides needed services and can help ensure more ethical studies involving humans outside the standard medical context. We provide some arguments for creating such committees, and in our supplemental article, we provide specific examples of cases and concerns that may confront technical, engineering, and design research, as well as outline the general framework we have used in creating our committee. (shrink)
The emergence of the new information economy hascomplicated jurisdictional issues in commerce andcrime. Many of these difficulties are simplyextensions of problems that arose due to other media.Telephones and fax machines had already complicatedjurists'' determinations of applicable laws. Evenbefore the Internet, contracts were often negotiatedwithout any face-to-face contact – entirely bytelephone and fax. Where is such a contractnegotiated? The answer to this question is critical toany litigation that may arise over such contracts. Thelaws of contract are often quite different from onejurisdiction (...) to the next.The Internet has brought with it new forms ofcommunication which make determining the loci of actseven more complicated. Where are contracts negotiatedwhen they are negotiated in cyberspace? Business isbeing conducted in chat rooms, on web sites, andthrough e-mail. Each of these is technically distinctfrom telephones and fax machines. More importantly,these tools seem ontologically different, in varyingdegrees, from traditional methods of communication.The question is, are these ontological differencessufficient to warrant new legal notions ofjurisdiction in cyberspace?Only a thorough ontological analysis of the parts ofcyberspace and acts ``in'''' it can reveal the answers tothe legal questions posed by this new medium.Traditional legal analyses have relied, in part, on acrude legal ontology. That is, courts have grappledwith notions of the topology and mereology of theworld and legal objects when considering questions ofjurisdiction. There is a simpler, theoretically soundmethod for determining legal jurisdiction which isbased upon the notion of ``purposeful direction,'''' andwhich treats computer-mediated transactions as justanother form of communication. I will explore thatmethod below. (shrink)
You quite rightly need not fear being owned in the most traditional and reprehensible sense by which humans ... New and more subtle forms of ownership have emerged in the past hundred years that now impact on essential qualities and ...
The hit television drama Breaking Bad is discussed by professional thinkers who compare the major themes of the show with philosophical concepts and answer questions about injustice, retaliation and the potential of everyone to become a ...
For the past half-century, issues relating to the ethical conduct of human research have focused largely on the domain of medical, and more recently social–psychological research. The modern regime of applied ethics, emerging as it has from the Nuremberg trials and certain other historical antecedents, applies the key principles of: autonomy, respect for persons, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice to human beings who enter trials of experimental drugs and devices :168–175, 2001). Institutions such as Institutional Review Boards and Ethics Committees oversee (...) most governmentally-funded medical research around the world, in more than a hundred nations that are signers of the Declaration of Helsinki. Increasingly, research outside of medicine has been recognized to pose potential risks to human subjects of experiments. Ethics committees now operate in the US, Canada, the U.K. and Australia to oversee all governmental-funded research, and in other jurisdictions, the range of research covered by such committees is expanding. Social science, anthropology, and other fields are falling under more clear directives to conduct a formal ethical review for basic research involving human participants. The legal and institutional response for protecting human subjects in the course of developing non-medical technologies, engineering, and design is currently vague, but some universities are establishing ethics committees to oversee their human subjects research even where the experiments involved are non-medical and not technically covered by the Declaration of Helsinki. In The Netherlands, as in most of Europe, Asia, Latin America, or Africa, no laws mandate an ethical review of non-medical research. Yet, nearly 2 years ago we launched a pilot ethics committee at our technical university and began soliciting our colleagues to submit their studies for review. In the past year, we have become officially recognized as a human subjects ethics committee for our university and we are beginning the process of requiring all studies using human subjects to apply for our approval. In this article, we consider some of the special problems relating to protecting human participants in a technology context, and discuss some of our experiences and insights about reviewing human subjects research at a technical university, concluding: that not less than in medical studies, human participants used in technology research benefit from ethical committees’ reviews, practical requirements for publications, grants, and avoiding legal liability are also served by such committees, and ethics committees in such contexts have many similarities to, but certain other special foci than medical ethics committees. We believe that this experience, and these observations, are helpful for those seeking to establish such committees in technology research contexts, and for framing the particular issues that may arise in such contexts for the benefit of researchers, and nascent committees seeking to establish their own procedures. (shrink)
Peter Hare and Edward Madden's collaborative book Evil and the Concept of God (968) has become a staple in literature about the problem of evil and remains frequently cited by supporters and critics alike. The major concepts of the work arose out of earlier papers in which they first began to formulate their arguments about the problem of evil. Their article "Evil and Unlimited Power" embodies many of their arguments against quasi-theist attempts to resolve the problem of evil.1 Assembled from (...) these and other papers, their compendium frames a thorough synthesis of the long history of debate regarding the problem of evil, and contributes their own exhaustive, point-by-point attack on modern defenders of three main .. (shrink)
Currently, under the law of intellectual property, IP owners may exclude from use or production substances and processes that we would ordinarily consider to be products of nature. This has helped companies monopolize disease genes, and thus diagnostic testing for those diseases, and “biosimilar” products, pharmaceutical materials that mimic biological materials. Extending the current paradigm to the world of synthetic biology and nanotechnology will create further injustices in the delivery of health care to billions of people around the world. As (...) such, I advocate heading this trend off at the pass. Scientists ought to conduct basic research into the building blocks of biology and matter in the open, publishing their results, releasing knowledge into the public domain upstream so that beneficial innovation can be produced without fear of downstream litigation, and so that what ought to remain in the public domain as a matter of right (products of nature) does not become unjustly monopolized. (shrink)
Ontologies describe reality in specific domains in ways that can bridge various disciplines and languages. They allow easier access and integration of information that is collected by different groups. Ontologies are currently used in the biomedical sciences, geography, and law. A Biomedical Ethics Ontology would benefit members of ethics committees who deal with protocols and consent forms spanning numerous fields of inquiry. There already exists the Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI); the proposed BMEO would interoperate with OBI, creating a powerful (...) information tool. We define a domain ontology and begin to construct a BMEO, focused on the process of evaluating human research protocols. Finally, we show how our BMEO can have practical applications for ethics committees. This paper describes ongoing research and a strategy for its broader continuation and cooperation. (shrink)