2nd ‘DELTA’ Project Workshop

Today, we held the 2nd workshop of our Re-constructing ELSI Project, or we have now decided to call it Project DELTA – ‘DELTA’ stands for Deliberation on Ethical, Legal, and Technical Arrangements. We started it reflecting briefly on yesterday’s pubic event entitled ‘Transcending Life: the Shock of Genome Editing & Artificial Intelligence‘, which was organized by Osaka University’s Biomedical Ethics and Public Policy Group on behalf of the Committee on Promoting Collaboration in Life Sciences of MEXT’s Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas – Platforms for Advanced Technologies and Research Resources, and in which our project member Dr. Arisa Ema spoke on the topic of AI and Society. The event attempted to bring the two latest technologies together and to explore their intersection with society. It was well-attended, indicating the high level of interest among the public in such technologies, and was a great opportunity to know how researchers working on them see their benefits and risks, but we also felt that we probably need to be a bit more inventive in terms of the event format if we want this kind of events to serve as a platform for the public’s engagement with cutting-edge science and/or technology.

In the workshop, we had presentations from two guest speakers, Dr. Tsutomu Sawai of Uehiro Research Division for iPS Cell Ethics at the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA), Kyoto University, and Mr. Hiroshi Toya of the Biomedical Ethics and Public Policy Group at Osaka University. Dr. Sawai, who last year published a book on ethics of human iPS cell research, told us how he started working on the topic, and also discussed how his ongoing research on issues like ethics of human-animal chimera and that of creation of germ cell lines from iPS cells would contribute to application of human iPS cells in the future. Mr. Toya then talked about his research to map (genomics-related) ELSI programs across the world. By comparing them, he observed that use of ELSI and that of ELSA seem to indicate difference in the kind of relationship between scientists and scholars of humanities and social scientists that were envisioned and facilitated in such programs.

The discussion today highlighted (again) that the need to examine the historical contingency of the very idea of ‘ELSI’. The major event that has made the idea spread across the world was undoubtedly the Human Genome Project. But why was it ‘ELSI’? Could it have been something else? Also, ELSI programs were launched in the early 2000s in several countries, including the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands, but many of them focused exclusively on genomics. The idea of ELSI was then adopted in the field of nanotechnology, which was later followed by synthetic biology. In contrast, there are a number of fields in science and technology that simply kept using the term ‘ethics’, rather than ‘ELSI’, despite that they examine similar issues and concerns. There are also fields that have quickly moved on to the even newer phrase of ‘Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)’. This suggests that we need to understand the rhetorical/symbolic significance of the term ‘ELSI’ and why it is keenly adopted in some fields but not in others.

Given the amount of work required for truly unpacking the idea of ELSI and re-conceptualizing it for the purpose it ought to serve, we are increasingly realizing that building a network with as many scholars and practitioners interested in this topic as possible and collaborating with them are critical. The project workshops have been a fantastic way of meeting such individuals and learning about their work, and we hope to keep them as such. We very much look forward to the 3rd one, now scheduled in late March.


ー日本語(Japanese ver.)ー

第2回 「ELSI概念の再構築」研究会開催

『ELSI概念の再構築』プロジェクト第2回研究会を本日開催した。本プロジェクトはこれまでの議論を反映し、今後その通称を「Deliberation on Ethical, Legal, and Technical Arrangements」の頭文字をとり『DELTA』とすることが決まっている。研究会は、まず前日に開催された文部科学省新学術領域研究学術研究支援基盤形成生命科学連携推進協議会主催の市民公開シンポジウム「生命を越えるもの:ゲノム編集と人工知能の衝撃」について振り返ることから始めた。このシンポジウムは大阪大学大学院医学系研究科医の倫理と公共政策学教室が主体となって企画されたもので、本プロジェクトのメンバーである江間有沙氏も「人工知能、生命科学と社会」というタイトルで話をしている。現在注目を集める先端科学技術であるゲノム編集と人工知能の二つをつなぎ、その接点を探る試みとして企画されたこのイベントは大変盛況で会場がほぼ満席となるほど高い関心が持たれていた。シンポジウムは、そのような先端科学技術に関連してどのような研究が実際に行われているのか、あるいはそこに携わる研究者がどのようにそのような科学技術のリスクやベネフィットを捉えているのかを理解するにはいい機会だったが、市民が科学技術の在り方を決めるための議論に参加する「流れ」を生み出すためには、新しいフォーマットを模索する必要があるという感想を持った。





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