The aim of this contribution is to critically examine the metaphysical presuppositions that prevail in (Stewart in Found Sci 15(4):395–409, 2010a ) answer to the question “are we in the midst of a developmental process?” as expressed in his statement “that humanity has discovered the trajectory of past evolution and can see how it is likely to continue in the future”.
The article examines the role played by policy advice institutions in the governance of ethically controversial new and emerging science and technology in Europe. The empirical analysis, which aims to help close a gap in the literature, focuses on the evolution, role and functioning of national ethics advisory bodies (EABs) in Europe. EABs are expert bodies whose remit is to issue recommendations regarding ethical aspects of new and emerging science and technology. Negative experiences with the impacts of science and technology (...) in the past have resulted in calls for increased transparency and broader participation and pluralism in expert advice and policy decision-making. Do national EABs function as inclusive, anticipatory “hybrid forums”? Or do they resemble more “classical” expert-oriented bodies, inspired by technocratic or decisionist approaches? As part of the empirical analysis of the role and functioning of institutional ethical advisory structures in 32 European countries, an extensive analysis of EAB websites and the content of publicly available documents on such institutions has been carried out, supplemented by an online survey of representatives of the EABs. One major finding of the empirical analysis is the very uneven distribution of “hybrid forum” features of EABs across Europe. (shrink)
The article explores some of the issues that have arisen in the discourse on pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement (PCE), that is, the use of stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate, amphetamine and modafinil by healthy individuals of various populations with the aim of improving cognitive performance. Specifically, we explore the presumed sizes of existing PCE user populations and the policy actions that have been proposed regarding the trend of PCE. We begin with an introductory examination of the academic stances and philosophical issues (...) involved in defining PCE. We then focus on an examination of the population sizes of presumed current PCE users that have been listed in the academic literature on PCE, on presuppositions, which have been problematized by some authors as based on anecdotal or misinterpreted survey data. We follow this with an empirical examination of a potential PCE user population in a national context (students at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia). We then proceed to examine the regulatory options proposed in the academic literature to address PCE, finally comparing them with an empirical overview of the policy recommendations on PCE produced in the multinational context of several national ethics advisory bodies (EABs) in Europe. Our main conclusion is that there is still little debate among the national EABs on what type of public policy responses, if any, are needed to address PCE in European countries, and that the issues they do address are similar to those discussed and proposed in the academic articles on PCE. (shrink)
The article investigates the sociocultural implications of the changing modern workplace and of pharmacological cognitive enhancement as a potential adaptive tool from the viewpoint of social niche construction. We will attempt to elucidate some of the sociocultural and technological trends that drive and influence the characteristics of this specific niche, and especially to identify the kind of capabilities and adaptations that are being promoted, and to ascertain the capabilities and potentialities that might become diminished as a result. In this context, (...) we will examine what PCE is, and how and why it might be desirable as a tool for adaptation within the workplace. As human beings are, or at least should be allowed to be, more than merely productive, able-bodied and able-minded workers, we will further examine how adaptation to the workplace niche could result in problems in other domains of modern societal life that require the same or other cognitive capabilities. In this context we will also focus on the concept of responsibility and how it pertains to PCE and the modern workplace niche. This will shed some light on the kind of trends related to workplace niche construction, PCE and capability promotion that we can expect in the future, and on the contexts in which this might be either beneficial or detrimental to the individual as a well-rounded human being, and to other members of society. (shrink)
Synthetic biology is rather a new field of science and technology. Societal, regulatory, legal, ethical, safety and security aspects of this field have already been analysed in much detail and discussed very widely in recent years. There is, however, a dearth of empirical studies on the points of view of relevant stakeholders in countries where SB is still in the process of emergence. Slovenia is one of them, and accordingly, the article analyses the situation of SB in this small country, (...) focusing on the points of view of various stakeholder groups concerning three aspects of SB: the policy framework, the ethical-legal discourse and the issues of biosafety and biosecurity. It is argued that Slovenia has missed many opportunities to foster the domestic development of the field; in particular, considering that at an early stage, young Slovenian researchers participated very successfully in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. (shrink)
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to set an example of how people with severe learning difficulties could be more integrated into our society. Design/methodology/approach – The installation consists of puzzles in the form of a specially designed table with an integrated touch screen. As the visual templates for the puzzles serve pictures painted by a person with severe learning difficulties. The pieces of the puzzles are manipulated directly by the player on the touch screen presenting an intuitive (...) and easily learned user interface. Findings – The framework for the work was a creation of an interactive art installation in the form of a game where users assemble puzzles on a touch monitor, housed in a specially designed table. Paintings by a person with severe learning difficulty served as visual templates for the puzzles. The pieces of the puzzles can be manipulated directly by the user on a touch screen presenting an intuitive and easily learned user interface, which stimulates the learning of fine motor skills and encourages practice, thus making it suitable for persons with severe learning difficulties in an art therapy setting. Practical implications – As the work has the format of an interactive art installation, this enables it to gain publicity through exhibitions in art galleries. Social implications – The installation demonstrates how people with severe learning difficulties can be integrated into the broader society. At the same time, these people are encouraged to use modern computer information technology, which is becoming a necessity also for this group of users. Ethical issues regarding how this group of people can get involved in such work are also discussed. Originality/value – Combining the habituation of people with severe learning difficulties with computer technology in the form of a game, and framing the whole process as a fine art undertaking, to win the public recognition, is a novelty in addressing the needs of these people. (shrink)