Nav: Home

How do we regulate advanced technologies along social or ethical lines?

February 17, 2017

How do we regulate advanced technologies along social or ethical lines? ASU expert says powerful new technologies are stretching the boundaries of science and science policy

Society faces several new and very powerful technologies that could alter the human trajectory into the future and, for the most part, the public wants clear guidelines as to how these technologies like gene editing are managed to ensure they are used safely. But the public's wariness with these new technologies is largely based on ethical, religious and social concerns, rather than concerns about safety or efficacy, which is what regulatory agencies are limited to consider.

So what the public wants and what can be currently provided are a mismatch at best. As a result, regulatory agencies are struggling to come up with best practices to use in this technology driven world while staying within their regulatory authority, according to Arizona State University Regents Professor of Law, Gary Marchant.

"The dilemma we face is that many of the public's concerns about emerging technologies are 'out of bounds' for the institutions we rely on to regulate those technologies," said Marchant, speaking today (Feb. 17) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. "Expressly considering ethical and social concerns would result in controversy and legal quagmire," he added. "On the other hand, not considering the factors that drive much of public sentiment may be undemocratic and ineffective."

Marchant's presentation "Governing Ethical, Social and Religious Aspects of Biotechnologies," outlines the current public sentiment on advance biotechnologies, like cloning of animals and human gene editing, and the public's concerns with and perceptions of these technologies.

Using animal cloning as an example, Marchant said religious and ethical concerns dominate the public's unease with it, far outweighing any safety concerns about the technology. The sense of 'playing god' or some internal unease with the technology was more of a driving force for wanting regulation, than safety effects of the technology on that specific species or fear of the risks involved, he said.

Using this week's National Academy of Sciences report on gene editing, which he co-authored, Marchant drew parallels between the public's concerns on that technology - in this instance it lies with the ethical aspects of tinkering with the human germline and enhancement engineering - and how best to proceed incorporating social, ethical and religious aspects into regulations.

"For some technologies within this domain we could ask that the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee - established by the National Institutes of Health and which now provides a public sounding board on controversial or novel human gene therapy protocols - to deliberate and engage on ethical and social issues associated with human gene editing, or we could develop a robust program for public consultation and dialogue on the topic," Marchant said.

Other possible solutions, he added, include having the regulatory agencies in charge expand their definitions of safety and efficacy to incorporate ethical and social concerns; give agencies statutory authority to consider ethical and social issues; create a separate agency to consider ethical and social issues; or require an ethics impact statement for major regulatory actions.

"As biotechnologies grow more powerful and increasingly raise more profound ethical issues, we can no longer leave these ethical and social dimensions off the decision making table," said Marchant. "To do so would be profoundly undemocratic and detrimental to the success of those technologies."
-end-


Arizona State University

Related Technology Articles:

The science and technology of FAST
The Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), located in a radio quiet zone, with the targets (e.g., radio pulsars and neutron stars, galactic and extragalactic 21-cm HI emission).
AI technology could help protect water supplies
Progress on new artificial intelligence (AI) technology could make monitoring at water treatment plants cheaper and easier and help safeguard public health.
Transformative technology
UC Davis neuroscientists have developed fluorescence sensors that are opening a new era for the optical recording of dopamine activity in the living brain.
Do the elderly want technology to help them take their medication?
Over 65s say they would find technology to help them take their medications helpful, but need the technology to be familiar, accessible and easy to use, according to research by Queen Mary University of London and University of Cambridge.
Technology detecting RNase activity
A KAIST research team of Professor Hyun Gyu Park at Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering developed a new technology to detect the activity of RNase H, a RNA degrading enzyme.
Taking technology to the next level
Physicists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) developed a new hybrid integrated platform, promising to be a more advanced alternative to conventional integrated circuits.
How technology use affects at-risk adolescents
More use of technology led to increases in attention, behavior and self-regulation problems over time for adolescents already at risk for mental health issues, a new study from Duke University finds.
Hold-up in ventures for technology transfer
The transfer of technology brings ideas closer to commercialization. The transformation happens in several steps, such as invention, innovation, building prototypes, production, market introduction, market expansion, after sales services.
The ultimate green technology
Imagine patterning and visualizing silicon at the atomic level, something which, if done successfully, will revolutionize the quantum and classical computing industry.
New technology detects COPD in minutes
Pioneering research by Professor Paul Lewis of Swansea University's Medical School into one of the most common lung diseases in the UK, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, has led to the development of a new technology that can quickly and easily diagnose and monitor the condition.
More Technology News and Technology Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.