Ethical Dimensions of NBIC-Convergence

Ethical Dimensions of NBIC-Convergence

Elena Grebenshchikova (Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5094-5.ch009


One of the key trends in the development of technoscience is associated with the NBIC-convergence projects, which create not only unprecedented means for transformation of society and human but also raise the risks that require integrated approaches to ethical assessment and examination. Today, the foundations of the “NBIC-tetrahedron” have ethical projections in the form of nanoethics, bioethics, ICT-ethics, and neuroethics. However, their ability to discuss and resolve complex problems is limited. Technoethics can be considered a relevant way of combining different approaches to the ethical issues of converging technologies and science to discuss and solve not only actual situations but prospects as well.
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One of the key trends in the development of techno-science associated with a NBIC-convergence project, which was proposed by M. Roco and W. Bainbridge – organizers “Converging Technologies: Improving Human Performance” workshop in 2002, where a new stage in the science and technology development was designated as the New Renaissance (Roco & Bainbridge, 2002). NBIC-initiative identified two focus-attractors: the first placed the emphasis on the synergetic merging of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive sciences at the nanometric scale, promising a stream of different technological innovations; the second focused on the change of the human, expansion of its performance. The latter caused a wave of enthusiasm among the adherents of the trans-humanist movement who saw it as a real tool for a transition towards a post-human future. Both vectors – economic-technological innovation and improvement of man – promised the global transformation of human and society in totality, opening up new horizons for the evolution of humanity as a consciously directed transformative process. However, the question of the nature of this evolution is fundamentally open. The complexity of the answer to this question is connected with the fact that initially NBIC-initiative has been instrumental and technocratic in nature, as indicated by many critics.

The cumulative effect of technology convergence can create not only unprecedented transformation of society and human, but also the risks that require integrated approaches to ethical evaluation and social expertise. One of the relevant approaches is technoethics, proposed by M. Bunge in 1977.

As Bunge (1977) wrote

The technologist must be held not only technically but also morally responsible for whatever he designs or executes: not only should his artifacts be optimally efficient but, far from being harmful, they should be beneficial, and not only in the short run but also in the long term.

In formalizing technoethics as a contemporary field of research, R. Luppicini acknowledges

Bunge brought to the forefront the core idea that technology should be moderated by moral and social controls and that the pursuit of such technology related issues requires special consideration and expertise, what eventually would become the field of technoethics. (Luppicini, 2008).

After some time, new dimensions of responsibility and responsibility for the future in particular, became the basis for creation of ethics of a technological civilization by G. Jonas (1984). The discussion of many modern technologies has a clear prognostic vector, where expectations and fears, hopes and risks intersect. The unprecedented pace of innovation requires not only operational, but also balanced approaches, taking into account the existing experience of solving complex problems. In this context, technoethics, bringing together different moral projection in the development of technoscience in a single theoretical framework, has a great potential (Figure 1 Conceptual map of technoethics, Handbook of technoethics, 8).

This potential is of interest in the context of discussions about the “ethical myopia” described by S. Alpert (2008) through the example of neuroethics and nanoethics, which he sees as “trajectories of bioethical inquiry”. From this point of view, technoethics can be seen as a way of preventing “ethical myopia” in the evaluation of NBIC-convergence, bringing together the potential of neuroethics, nanoethics, ICT-ethics and bioethics.

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