Deep Dive: The Genetic Revolution, Unintended Consequences, and the Public Trust

New genetic technologies have the potential to cure disease, alleviate hunger, and lead a clean energy revolution. But with these powerful new possibilities come with a range of consequences and ethical questions. Such questions might in theory be addressed in interdisciplinary, transparent settings. But the current system of scientific discovery encourages siloed work from small teams working in isolation (and often in competition) — an approach that can lead to duplication and waste, but which could prove quite dangerous. After all, individuals are highly unlikely to recognize the broader consequences of their work without help from outside. But people who specialize in looking for these dangerous synergies often only find out about new technologies once they’ve already been developed and published, at which point it’s probably too late to meaningfully intervene. All of this takes place against a backdrop of public skepticism about genetic engineering and a belief that technologies often become available before their consequences are understood. So what should scientists do to build trust and get moral consensus around the scientific questions that will shape the future of life on earth?

Festival: Aspen Ideas 2017

Watch and Listen: Science

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