Re-constructing ELSI

Initiative for Deliberation on Ethical, Legal, and Technical Arrangements (DELTA)

<Project Outline>

The idea of ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) of science and technology gained currency in the late 20th century in relation to a major event in life sciences – namely the Human Genome Project. Since then, the idea has been adopted in a broad range of areas of science and technology, and a number of programs have been developed to explore and address such issues. However, the programs have not always been successful in making clear what kind of society we want to live and guiding progress in science and technology accordingly. A notable challenge may be that researchers of science and technology seldom engage with ELSI-related activities; some of them even consider such activities as unnecessary barriers for their important work. Another may be exclusive reliance of such activities on experts in ethics and law, undermining ‘S’ among E, L, and S of ELSI. Here, ELSI as a way of governance of science and technology seems to have lost its original significance. If so, the gap between the society we want to live and new social environments that advances in science and technology present can only be widening. To prevent this happening, this project re-visits the very concept of ELSI and aims to propose how we may be put it in practice in order for it to work as an effective way of governing science and technology.

To achieve this aim, this 3-year project combines a concept-oriented approach – including a historical analysis of the concept of (or more precisely, multiple conceptions of) ELSI and how it was transferred to and practiced in Japan – and a practice-oriented approach – working with stakeholders in specific fields like medical genomics and artificial intelligence to see how activities to address ELSI may be best designed and implemented. In the first year, we organize a series of workshops to study problems of ELSI activities today and construct a new conceptual framework for ELSI for the futureAnd following early discussion among the project members and with some colleagues, such a framework is (tentatively) phrased as Deliberation on Ethical, Legal, and Technical Arrangements (DELTA). This phrase reflects the idea that experts in ethics and law should work closely with technical experts in considering potential implications of science and technology and making necessary arrangements for their governance. And of course, the Greek alphabet of Delta denotes ‘change’. It is our hope that their close collaboration will bring about desirable change in the society.



Drs. Koichi Mikami (U. of Tokyo, PI), Arisa Ema (U. of Tokyo), Jusaku Minari (Kyoto U.), and Go Yoshizawa (OsloMet)



11th Nov. 2017 – Attendance to a Workshop on ELSI of Molecular Robotics

15th Nov. 2017 – Acceptance of our open panel for 4S Sydney 2018

27th Dec. 2017 – 1st Project Workshop

25th Jan. 2018 – Attendance to the Workshop on the Governance of Emerging BioDesign Technologies

13th Feb. 2018 – 2nd Project Workshop

22nd Mar. 2018 – 3rd Project Workshop

12th Apr. 2018 – 4th Project Workshop

1st Sep. 2018 – Open Panel at Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting

Funded by SECOM Science and Technology Foundation