Publication date: 23/06/2015


This year, several leading researchers have sounded warnings about the risks of using the CRISPR gene-editing technique to modify human and other species’ genomes in ways that could have “unpredictable effects on future generations” and “profound implications for our relationship to nature”

Concerns are coming from the silicon sector as well. Last year, the physicist Stephen Hawking proclaimed that rapidly advancing artificial intelligence (AI) could destroy the human race. And in 2013, former Royal Society president Martin Rees co-founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, UK, in part to study threats from advanced AI.

Leaders of the scientific community are ready to share the responsibility for these powerful technologies with the public. But scientists also want to control the terms of engagement.

The idea that the risks, benefits and ethical challenges of these emerging technologies are something to be decided by experts is wrong-headed, futile and self-defeating. It misunderstands the role of science in public discussions about technological risk. It seriously underestimates the democratic sources of science’s vitality and the capacities of democratic deliberation. And it will further delegitimize and politicize science in modern societies.


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