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Significance

According to the National Intelligence Council report Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, “We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures."

Nowhere is this more evident than in the promise and peril of advancing biotechnology and associated applications of information technologies. Advances in genetics, neuroscience, developmental biology, bioengineering, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and robotics are blurring the boundaries between humans, animals and machines. At the same time, new insights from ethology, cognitive science, anthropology and other disciplines are shifting our understanding of where those boundaries lie. Together, these advances raise conceptual and practical problems of profound importance for the human future.

As we approach practical decisions to be made about how we will use or limit new technologies, we aim to explore three fundamental questions in ways that could helpfully illuminate those decisions:

  • What are the unique and defining features of human nature?
  • What composition, conditions, and constraints (physical, social, and spiritual) provide for the fullest flourishing of our distinctive purposes within the world?
  • And, most perplexing, is modern humankind a transitional form toward some future expression of our humanity?

Our project aims to:

1) Increase public understanding of the scope and depth of advances in biotechnology, together with thoughtful consideration of the ethical issues implied by their potential impacts at the personal, social, and species levels of human life

2) Encourage ongoing, inclusive, and respectful scholarly and public discussion that engages the full breadth of human experience and wisdom in cooperative and productive consideration of our new technological powers

3) Experiment with new models for public engagement uniting concepts from science, communications, ethics, and faith, guided by the principles of human-centered design

4) Make clear, practical progress in defining fundamental concepts and general principles for the wise guidance and governance of the development, ethical evaluation, and applications of biomedical technologies in human populations