Visitors walk around at the IBM's stand at 2015 CeBIT Technology Trade fair in Hanover, Germany, on March 16, 2015. Top IT business fair CeBIT 2015, which features a strong Chinese presence, opened on Sunday in Germany. (Xinhua/Zhang Fan)
Visitors walk around at the IBM's stand at 2015 CeBIT Technology Trade fair in Hanover, Germany, on March 16, 2015. Top IT business fair CeBIT 2015, which features a strong Chinese presence, opened on Sunday in Germany. (Xinhua/Zhang Fan)

“We must find the middle ground between innovation and precaution,” declared Jean-Yves Le Deaut, French member of parliament and chairperson of the Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment, during a closing speech on Tuesday at a bioethics conference at the Council of Europe (CoE).

Visitors walk around at the IBM's stand at 2015 CeBIT Technology Trade fair in Hanover, Germany, on March 16, 2015. Top IT business fair CeBIT 2015, which features a strong Chinese presence, opened on Sunday in Germany. (Xinhua/Zhang Fan)
Visitors walk around at the IBM’s stand at 2015 CeBIT Technology Trade fair in Hanover, Germany, on March 16, 2015. Top IT business fair CeBIT 2015, which features a strong Chinese presence, opened on Sunday in Germany. (Xinhua/Zhang Fan)

Le Deaut, also the general rapporteur on science and technological impact assessment for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), attempted to summarize various concerns and optimism shared by international experts during a two-day conference on “Emerging Technologies and Human Rights” from May 4 to 5.
“There is a growing impact from technology, and also therefore a growing need for regulation,” he said.
Organized by the CoE’s Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO), the conference set out to explore how emerging technologies (such as nanotechnology, information technology, bio food technology, and cognitive science) are changing society and potentially impacting human rights.
Presentations included examinations on ethical questions surrounding invasive and non-invasive new medical technologies, massive data collection that stretches from health services to “wearable” self-monitoring devices to social networks, the equitability of access to new technologies, and methods of governance surrounding innovation and research.
Many participants showed concern about the speed of technological advancement and the protection of individual rights, especially in terms of data collection and security.
Hugh Whittall, director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the United Kingdom, summarized the conference discussions as showing that “privacy, as a fundamental value, is under pressure.”
Other participants asked questions regarding who has control over emerging technologies, and how that control should be governed.
“At one level it seems clear that we’re extremely liberated, on another level it’s not clear what we’re being liberated for,” explained Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzhiemer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Harvard University.
“This cannot just be a conversation between political elites,” Whittall said. “There has to be a wider participation.”
Still, other participants appeared to show a guarded optimism about the possible outcomes of the debates.
“I think this conference has shown that there is a willingness to face that there are new challenges,” said Roger Strand of the Centre for the Study of Sciences and Humanities at Bergen University in Norway.
“What is happening here is crucial for giving meaning to technological citizenship,” said Rinie van Est of the Rathenau Institute in the Hague, Netherlands.
DH-BIO will draw on the results of the conference to develop a white paper with recommendations concerning emerging technologies and related challenges to human rights.
A timeline for the white paper was not announced at the conference, but the committee will have to wait for rapporteurs to conclude their reports on the session’s outcomes.
Among the important considerations for DH-BIO will be several calls from conference participants for the committee to expand its domain beyond biomedicine and human rights in order to incorporate emerging technologies that are not connected to the medical field.
“This doesn’t map neatly on the circumscribed area of biomedicine,” explained Whittall. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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