PANELISTS: 2019-20 CASBS fellows Rene Almeling and R. Alta Charo
MODERATOR: H&S dean and 2017-18 CASBS fellow Debra Satz
Emerging biomedical technologies – particularly those involving genome editing and human reproduction – carry the power to cure illness and alleviate suffering. They also pose challenges. They are expensive, often beyond the limits of insurance and most people’s pocketbooks. Some require complex equipment and facilities, which many countries don’t have. These technologies may not only transmit but even exacerbate existing inequities, such as those associated with socioeconomic status, gender, race, and place. Moreover, dual-use dilemmas can arise if technologies designed to resist disease are then mobilized for the purpose of human enhancement or, even more concerning, weaponized in ways that threaten the environment and public safety.
How can the power of these technologies be harnessed and directed toward the public good? And does the prospect of disparities and dilemmas suggest a need to recognize ethical limits on markets surrounding such technologies? Where markets do develop, can an ecosystem of governance mechanisms, from formal regulations to insurers and even journal editors, work together to reduce the risks?
The possibility of altering ourselves and our children may even affect the very meaning of the word "human." The social sciences and humanities have a crucial role to play, collaborating with scientists before, during, and after research; anticipating, interpreting, and mediating its application and social effects; and offering nuanced perspectives and evidence-based insights to inform regulatory and governance structures. This panel will explore many of these weighty issues, themes, and questions. Tomorrow's humans may look quite different from today's. And however they develop, tomorrow’s humans will look back at how we confront these challenges today.