From human enhancement to the eradication of diseases, and many other possible applications besides, the science of gene editing will fundamentally affect both how we live and die in the future. It raises some profound social and moral questions that must be grappled with by scientists, policy makers and the public alike.
These questions cannot be dealt with through conventional means – existing approaches to public and stakeholder engagement in science simply aren’t up to the job. That’s why we’re proud to see the publication of an important opinion piece by our senior associate, Simon Burall, in the leading scientific journal Nature, making the case for the need to rethink public engagement for gene editing.
Simon’s article sketches out a substantial new architecture for engaging the public in gene editing and other disruptive technologies such as AI. His proposal is substantial in size and scale, and may strike many as unachievable or unaffordable. But – drawing from our extensive experience of working at senior levels of government to design and implement effective engagement strategies – it is far from pie in the sky. And what seems certain to us is that the cost of doing nothing will be considerably more – with impacts that nobody intended or envisaged, and the potential for a considerable public backlash.
As with any ambitious proposal, the detail will be wrong in parts, and more effective approaches may overtime be found. But what is undeniable is that we need a new approach to help society navigate the social and moral dilemmas posed by a number of recent technological advances.
As a society we face many profound questions across the domains of economics, politics, society and technology. The answers to these questions will determine winners and losers, and affect how we all live, work and play in the future. At Involve, we believe these questions require a collective response if we are to find long-term solutions that work for everyone. That’s why we’re committed to putting people at the heart of decision-making.
This requires big and bold ideas to rethink how we engage people in the decisions that affect their lives. Simon’s article takes us a significant step forward in the realm of science and technology and, agree or disagree with it, I urge you to engage with the ideas within it.