New technology triggers ethical controversy, experts call for strengthening global governance
Our reporter Cui Shuang
“There were only 7 articles on gene editing in 2012, and 2750 in 2018. There were more than 36,000 authors, distributed in 92 countries, and belonged to more than 3,600 universities and research institutions. A questionnaire survey of them found that 40% People have never heard of more than 60 gene editing-related declarations, and less than 20% of those who have really studied those consensus clauses. This is where we are.” On the evening of November 8, the Second World Forum on Science, Technology and Development A high-end dialogue was held with the theme of “Technology Ethics and Science Culture”. Xue Lan, Dean of Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University, shared a study on the spot.
He further said that among the global scientists participating in the survey, 30% agreed to “suspend gene editing research”, and more than 50% opposed it. “Scientific and technical workers are divided internally, which shows that practitioners have not addressed the ethical issues of gene editing. think deeply.”
In addition to gene editing, artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfaces, autonomous driving… In today’s rapid iteration of modern technology and continuous innovation in social applications, technology and industrial innovation are closely integrated, which promotes social development while triggering a series of ethical issues and impact Human traditional ethics. As Gong Ke, chairman of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, said, “the challenge is already here.”
Ethical disputes such as gene editing and artificial intelligence are the most concerned
According to related surveys organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, among the most concerned issues in the field of scientific and technological ethics, genetic technology ranks first, followed by robots, human enhancement, and artificial intelligence.
As a reproductive medicine scientist, Academician Qiao Jie, Dean of Peking University Third Hospital, is on the front line of technical and ethical conflict. She said that the starting point for the construction of an ethical knowledge system is medical ethics. “We must pay attention to the possible impact of new technologies on human physiology and psychology, rights and dignity, and moral laws. Technology promotes social progress, and ethics is a guarantee for society.”
She takes her field as an example: assisted reproduction brings good news to infertility patients, but genetic discrimination, possible screening and even baby customization are all worth pondering. The ethical and legal risks behind genetic parents and sociological parents also need to be discussed. . The newly won Nobel Prize-winning gene editing technology is even more ethical controversy. “Molecular scissors are cheap and efficient, but what to cut with them? In the absence of strict ethical review, the consequences are unpredictable.” Qiao Jie said. .
“Scientists must make a judgment when carrying out cutting-edge medical science research. What kind of ethical rules should we use to deal with human embryos. Such rules are very important for medical progress.” said Academician Pu Muming, academic director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Brain Science and Intelligent Technology Innovation Center. “Like a brain-computer interface, it can interpret the activities in the brain, change people’s behavior patterns and even control people. Like the development of new drugs, drugs not only help humans cure diseases, but may also enhance human functions. Will this lead to further social differentiation? ?”
In the field of artificial intelligence, ethical issues accompany each other. Microsoft’s chief scientist Erica Horvitz listed one by one: the credibility, security, fairness, and transparency of AI systems, and the prejudices and discrimination embedded in the data.
In Xue Lan’s view, the ethical challenges brought about by emerging technologies are mainly focused on uncontrollable risks such as the impact of gene editing on human bodies and future generations; infringement risks such as data privacy and protection; liability risks such as autonomous driving accidents and society The risk of sex. “They are all ethical issues that must be considered to find solutions.”
Need for cross-border, cross-domain and cross-circle cooperative governance
“After World War II to the present, the number of people engaged in scientific research activities has increased dramatically, and they come from different countries, different cultures and different religions. The traditional scientific and technological ethical governance mechanism has failed.” Xue Lan said frankly.
Is it possible to establish a new mechanism? All the answers point to dialogue and cooperation.
“When we formulated the principles of responsible use of artificial intelligence and big data in the engineering field last year, we compared the relevant practices of major companies around the world and found great similarities. In the most basic principles, everyone’s understanding is the same. Yes.” Gong Ke said. Pu Muming also said that from the perspective of the development history of cloning technology and atomic bomb technology, it is achievable to establish a global code of ethical behavior based on the new disputed technology.
According to Paul Verbeck, the convener of the UNESCO Artificial Intelligence Ethics Committee and a professor at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, it is most important to determine a common ethical governance framework, because “the influence of technology is not limited to a certain country. It is global. And good ethical rules apply to all technologies and countries and need to understand each other and develop together”. He said that through the establishment of a communication platform and the development of predictive assessment tools for technological impact, technological regulation can be carried out.
Xue Lan said that in order to realize the global governance of science and technology ethics, in-depth research and dialogue are the most important, and all countries, enterprises, social organizations, and scientific groups must participate in this, and communicate more candidly and even “exchange fire.” Among them, Gong Ke particularly emphasized the role of the scientific community. “The scientific community must not only take the lead in technological innovation, but also take the lead in ethics.”
The construction of scientific and technological ethics is a global issue. In July last year, the “National Science and Technology Ethics Committee Formation Plan” was reviewed and approved, and my country’s science and technology ethics construction was fully launched.
“Global science and technology ethics governance is our compulsory course. We need to communicate more and reach consensus on science and technology ethics.” said Shen Xiangyang, former executive vice president of Microsoft and a foreign academician of the American Academy of Engineering. “This is the common responsibility of mankind.”
(Science and Technology Daily, Beijing, November 8th)