Transformative innovations: Opportunities and ethical dilemmas

Transformative innovations: Opportunities and ethical dilemmas

Abstract

From engineering new life forms to having machines trusted with life and death judgements, legislators are facing new ethical dilemmas that need to be addressed. This session examines the opportunities brought about by science and technology that transform our way of life, as well as the ethical and moral implications

 

Rationale

Sixteen years into the 21st century, we have witnessed tremendous scientific and technological advancements across many sectors including communications, transportation and healthcare. Yet the future promises even greater advancements with far reaching implications on society. We are approaching the tipping point where exponential technologies are set to produce even greater revolutionary change in business, industry, healthcare, communications, and even knowledge production. Advances in synthetic biology, are already allowing for synthesizing DNA and even altering life forms; quantum computing will revolutionize computing and problem solving; humanoid robots enabled by artificial intelligence will make decisions that affect our lives; sensors will harvest their own energy and will be everywhere and in everything continuously collecting data and employing cognitive computing to produce knowledge, and 4D printing allowing materials to self-align into new shapes, will enable self-assembled parts, components and even systems. These transformative technologies will have a great impact, but this will come at significant cost unless we begin to find ways to address the ethical and moral implications, including: human values such as privacy; global issues such as security; economic issues such as the digital divide giving way to the much large knowledge divide; and moral issues associated with altering life forms.