2 DEAD METAPHORS OF BIOTECHNOLOGY ‘technology’ – suggests a process over which we have control? technē (art, skill, craft) from tiktō (to bring into the world, beget or bear) teknon (that which is borne or born, cf. the Scots bairn, a child) ‘What may have to be borne about children…is that they do not turn out to be what was hoped for or expected.’ ‘The Two-Edged Sword: Biotechnology and Mythology’ in Kltozko AJ (ed) The Cloning Sourcebook OUP 2001: 94-108
ISTs ETHICS3 RISKS OF BIO-ENGINEERING ‘In hardware engineering, the number of “unknowns” is practically nil, and the engineer can accurately predict the properties of his product. For the biological engineer, who has to take over, “sight-unseen,” the untold complexity of the given determinants with their self-functioning dynamics, the number of unknowns in the design is immense.’ Jonas H. Philosophical Essays. Chicago: U of Chicago P 1974:143 ‘evolution in the fast lane’ Rollin B The Frankenstein Syndrome Cambridge: CUP 1995
ISTs ETHICS4 REDUCING RISKS OF UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS? By ‘bottom up’ approaches – cf., e.g., synthetic biology ‘biobricks’? By lifetime monitoring – cf., xenotransplantation? By implanting only to achieve a specific and well-established result, e.g., Cochlear implants (1970s-80 adults, 1980s-90s children) ? ‘Brain pacemakers’ – DBS for Parkinson’s, depression, OCD *? Computer translation into action (respiratory control/manipulation of prosthetic limbs) of neurons firing in the motor cortex.* ? *Naufel S ‘Nanotechnology, the Brain, and Personal Identity in Hays SA et al (eds) Nanotechnology, the Brain, and the Future. Yearbook of Nanotechnology in Society 3 2013: 167-178
ISTs ETHICS5 JUSTIFYING RISKS Risks of ‘unknown unknowns’ may be morally justifiable if 1.prior to use in humans the therapy has been shown to be sufficiently effective and safe 2.the condition (disease/disability) to be treated is sufficiently serious 3.a sufficient population of healthy volunteers and patients is prepared to give 4.sufficiently informed consent to participating in human studies Each of these ‘sufficient’s involves a judgement, which by definition is fallible and contestable, and needs to be negotiated between the parties involved: e.g. in all cases ultimately legislators and the law, but specifically in (1) scientist and regulators, in (2) with those who have the condition (including those who may not believe their condition is a disability), in (3), scientists and statisticians, and in (4) participants.
ISTs ETHICS6 WORRIES ABOUT ENHANCEMENT No bright line can be drawn in principle between therapy and enhancement Presumably STIs could be used to extend capacities already extendable by external devices, or mental or physical training, e.g. –night sight, distance sight/hearing/smell, speed, and (how defined?) intelligence How serious are the risks of ‘enhancing’ any one of these on the individual’s other capacities (Asperger’s, dogs) or the integrity of their physiology and personality ? Can running the risks (unknown unknowns) of enhancement be morally justified?
ISTs ETHICS7 JUSTIFYING ENHANCEMENT Unknown unknowns of enhancement – again could be discovered only by experiment Experiment could be morally and scientifically justified only if (eventually) conducted on a sufficiently large and diverse population of volunteers, whose informed consent could be judged to be the moral justification. Could enough be induced? Possibly some, if in a sufficiently competitive context (sport/military/academic) If enough, would wider (social) moral justification be required? Harm principle and equity would require that benefits and risks of enhancement should be ‘evenly spread’ across individuals/communities/society/societies & wider: ‘Sustainability is a moral idea that involves equity over time and reflects both intra-generational and inter-generational obligations to the larger human community, and to the nonhuman world’. * *Gjerris M, Gamborg C. Röcklinsberg H, Anthony R ‘The Price of Responsibility: Ethics of Animal Husbandry in a Time of Climate Change’ J Agric Environ Ethics DOI 10.1007/s10806-010-9270-6
VIRTUE ETHICS ethics is not something you are done with at some point, but it is a continuous effort to illuminate the moral terrain and to understand our basic values in light of our current challenges *Gjerris M, Gamborg C. Röcklinsberg H, Anthony R ‘The Price of Responsibility: Ethics of Animal Husbandry in a Time of Climate Change’ J Agric Environ Ethics DOI 10.1007/s10806-010-9270- 6 RESPECT RESPONSIBILITY REALISM RECOURSE TO THE GOLDEN RULE ISTs for home monitoring of people with mild Alzheimers: greater independence or greater isolation? ISTs ETHICS8
9 METAPHYSICS OF RECOGNITION G Gillett Cyborgs and moral identity J Med Ethics 2006;32:79–83. doi: 10.1136/jme.2005.012583 ‘‘What change in an object results in a metaphysical difference so that we have a different object (or kind of object) on our hands from the one with which we started?’’ …it is the total form that is revealed in a lived life story that gives a being the identity which matters morally and that identity, in the sense we respond to it in our moral thinking, is somewhat indifferent to the material of which the being is made except in so far as that material affects the relevant lived experience (which is not independent of how we react and respond). [need for] …reflective or perceptual equilibrium, involving both intuitions and a rational analysis of the facts surrounding relevant encounters and their characteristics. In the end, however, one judges according to the responses one finds evoked in oneself and their sustainability over time, and to reflection, in much the way that the Aristotelians claim. Faced with this strange moral fruit we, ‘‘suck it and see’’. Is the being before me able to feel pain? Does the being before me develop attachments and make an appeal to me? Does the being before me have a story in which moral participation features? … what we ought to do is to be true to our nature as beings who live as members of a kingdom of ends able to recognise, take account of, and respond to each others’ subjectivities as they are revealed in lived experience when we interact with each other and tell our stories. … in any imaginable case, I think we ought to react on the basis of a sum, albeit complex, dynamic, and impossible to reduce to formulations, of the mutual participation in language games where morality is relevant. On the basis of that complex engagement in a many faceted discourse, our conception (metaphysical if you like) of what a human being is is derived from the beings with whom we share these formative and sustaining interactions. the epistemic virtues needed to gather the data relevant to the metaphysical question cannot be exercised in the absence of the right moral attitudes. It therefore seems to me that a cyborg is, on the present account, as human as his or her life among us indicates to those who approach the encounter with an openness to others and a sense of life. The creature concerned ought then to be treated as such an acquaintance would treat them.
MORALITY OF RESPONSIBILITY Especially with respect to the brain, where technology intimately affects the person at the location of their decision-making, personhood becomes an issue. For example, if the user of a brain pacemaker is in fluenced by stimulation to become more impulsive, and he or she commits a crime, how should the user be treated? Is he or she a full person who is expected to uphold standards of society by not breaking the law? Alternatively, should society give this individual leniency because the technology aspect of his or her being cannot be held morally accountable? Naufel S ‘Nanotechnology, the Brain, and Personal Identity in Hays SA et al (eds) Nanotechnology, the Brain, and the Future. Yearbook of Nanotechnology in Society 3 2013: 167-178 ISTs ETHICS10