Ethics of science and technology is a navigator for science to benefit mankind


Ethics of science and technology is a navigator for science to benefit mankind

  The ninth meeting of the Central Committee for Comprehensive Deepening Reform reviewed and approved many important documents, among which the "Plan for the Establishment of the National Science and Technology Ethics Committee" was passed at the top. This shows that the central government regards the construction of science and technology ethics as an indispensable and important part of promoting the national science and technology innovation system. The purpose of establishing the National Science and Technology Ethics Committee is to improve institutional norms, improve governance mechanisms, strengthen ethical supervision, refine relevant laws and regulations and ethical review rules, and standardize various scientific research activities.

  Ethics of science and technology is the product of reason

  Ethics of science and technology is a code of thought and behavior for the relationship between man and society, man and nature, and man and man in scientific and technological innovation and scientific research activities. It not only involves ethics in scientific research, nor is it only for scientific researchers to abide by scientific and technological ethics, but also includes ethics in the application of scientific and technological achievements. For example, consent terms for mobile app downloads and informed consent for hospital treatment. If the evolution of human civilization is regarded as a never-ending journey, the driving force for human beings to move towards a higher civilization is technology and innovation. However, motivation alone is not enough. It must also be able to identify the direction. Ethics of science and technology is a navigator that guides science and technology to benefit mankind.

  The ethics of science and technology is the product of reason. The most fundamental reason is to require that scientific and technological innovation and achievements can only benefit or maximize the benefit of people, organisms and the environment, and not harm people, damage organisms and the environment. Even if it will inevitably damage people and things to varying degrees – such as the side effects of drugs, such side effects must be reduced to a minimum or even zero. In terms of specific ethical rules, we should also choose the greater of the two benefits and the lesser of the two evils.

  Science and technology ethics originated in human life, and today there are more and more updated content. Therefore, it is urgent to establish a national science and technology ethics committee to meet the many challenges brought about by today’s scientific and technological innovation. More and more detailed science and technology ethics are needed to regulate scientific research behavior and the use of scientific research results.

  Science and technology ethics need to be predictive and exploratory

  However, proposing and following the ethics of science and technology is not only beneficial to everyone, but also beneficial to the ecology and the environment. Otherwise, it will lead to disaster and failure for everyone, and may even destroy human society. Hawking talked many times during his lifetime that artificial intelligence may destroy human beings. Although human beings are rational and thus gave birth to the ethics of science and technology, human beings also have some irrational thoughts and actions, which has led to some irrational behaviors that violate the ethics of science and technology in history, and even animal and anti-human behaviors. Today, such dangers have not been eliminated.

  During World War II, the Nazi German and Japanese troops experimented with living people (captives), which not only violated the ethics of science and technology, but also committed crimes against humanity and humanity. Although some scientific data and principles have been obtained from human live experiments, scientific research based on harming people and destroying life is absolutely unacceptable to human society. Therefore, the Nuremberg Trials after World War II produced the Nuremberg Code (1946). In 1975, the 29th World Medical Congress revised the Helsinki Declaration to improve and supplement the Nuremberg Code. In 1982, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Council of Medical Scientific Organizations (CIOMS) jointly issued the International Guidelines for Human Biomedical Research, which explained the Helsinki Declaration in detail. Then in 1993, WHO and CIOMS jointly published the International Guidelines on Ethics and Human Research and the International Guidelines on Ethics in Human Research. In 2002, WHO and CIOMS revised and developed the International Code of Ethics for Biomedical Research Involving People, which proposed 21 guidelines to be followed.

  This is one of the most detailed and important scientific and technological ethics in human society so far, embodying the principles of informed consent, life value, and benefit and no harm in bioethics. When scientific and technological innovation has become the most important activity of human beings today, and human beings need scientific and technological innovation to quickly and effectively promote the development of human civilization to a higher stage, there are a lot of new categories, new contents, and new progress in scientific and technological ethics. Human genome and gene editing, artificial life and synthetic life, artificial intelligence, 5G technology, robots, brain-computer interfaces, facial recognition, nanotechnology, assisted reproductive technology, precision medicine, etc., are all new areas of scientific and technological innovation and scientific research and development today, and they are also related to the well-being of all people. However, on the other hand, it may also harm people, and even lead humans to disaster and destruction. In this way, the navigation and normative role of scientific and technological ethics is extremely important and significant.

  Therefore, science and technology ethics need to be prescient and exploratory. When a research or an industry develops to a certain scale and extent, it must be regulated by appropriate science and technology ethics.

  In line with the establishment of a national science and technology ethics committee in our country, the ethics professional committee of the Chinese artificial intelligence society is also planning to establish and formulate various ethical norms for artificial intelligence in different industries, such as intelligent driving norms, data ethics norms, smart medical ethics norms, intelligent manufacturing norms, and robot norms for helping the elderly.

  At the same time, due to the irrationality and profit-seeking nature of human beings, people may not only violate existing ethical principles when conducting scientific and technological innovation activities and scientific research, but also because when new ethical principles have not yet been established, there is a borderline between the old and the new, with and without regulations, resulting in scientific research that violates human ethics or is highly controversial, as well as the improper use of scientific research results.

  It is urgent to establish a new ethics of science and technology

  Although human beings believe that all scientific research and innovation are for the benefit of society, scientific exploration is largely in a state of unknown or even ignorance, and people do not know what consequences and latent risks such exploration and results will have when applied to human society and the natural world.

  Due to limited knowledge and lack of understanding in scientific research, it is possible to break through the original ethical norms and form new ethical gaps, which requires national authorities to identify and judge the potential risks and consequences of scientific and technological exploration and application. It is also very important and urgent to establish new scientific and technological ethics involving specific disciplines and categories.

  This is currently the case in a highly risky study involving cutting-edge research. For example, some researchers believe that the CCR5 gene is an accomplice in causing people to be infected with HIV, so they have knocked out the gene in newborns in an experiment to prevent AIDS forever.

  The original intention of this scientific research may be positive. However, due to the lax ethical review, there is a huge risk in this research, which may not only violate the four existing principles of bioethics – favor, respect, fairness and mutual assistance, but also has a greater practical risk. Knocking out the CCR5 gene can prevent AIDS, but its immune function, anti-cancer function and other beneficial functions will also disappear completely. This is actually due to the lack of understanding of the comprehensive uses of the CCR5 gene. This also shows how important and urgent it is to establish a national science and technology ethics committee and formulate ethical norms for various disciplines and multidisciplinary research and application of results. (Zhang Tiankan)


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