Science and technology are essential ingredients of our humanity. The emergence of fruitful and diverse scholarly perspectives on the history, practice, communication, governance and impacts of scientific knowledge reflects this fact. Yet rapid scientific and technological change has also unsettled the idea of what it means to be human; for example, through new frontiers in physical and cognitive enhancement, shift to knowledge economies, and potential threats to employment from mass automation. These changes take place in a context of broader challenges to expertise and evidence, dramatically illustrated by the EU referendum and the election of Donald Trump. Taking these matters seriously calls for a renewed focus on compassion, benevolence and civilization. This year at Science in Public, we ask:
How do science and technology affect what it means to be human?
Panel 20 theme
Emerging advanced bio- and computer- technologies are highly likely to pose significant challenges to existing societal and legal conventions. Artificial Intelligence, synthetic biology, human enhancement, and other developments promise to draw into question the nature of personhood and humanity, a concept upon which many significant institutions are founded- not the least of which being human rights law. In the potential new era of novel consciousnesses that we may encounter, it is vitally important to establish whether existing law will remain sufficient, and if not, how it ought to be adapted to meet the requirements of the future.
To do so the sessions of the panel will examine the conceptualisation and positioning of the human in law both domestic and international, and attempt to determine the moral basis for this. It will also be necessary to determine whether, or under what conditions, this might be compatible with the existence of novel types of conscious being. If personhood is the deciding factor in law, then there is reason to believe and precedent that other consciousnesses should qualify. Furthermore, the sessions will discuss why we cannot afford to ignore these potential challenges, by highlighting existing issues in various legal spheres (including intellectual property) that are the result of technology outpacing legislation and which are the prelude to more far-reaching problems.
The panels, part of Science in Public 2017 (10-12th July 2017, University of Sheffield), will comprise multiple sessions, including:
-A panel discussion session on the Draft Report of the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs on granting ‘electronic personhood’ to AI
– Short film on the impacts of new biotechnologies on patient lives and identities, and responses
– Open papers and invited speakers
Papers are welcomed on topics in the area, including:
- The conception of human in law
- How sci-fi/comics influence the legal imagination of emerging technologies
- Duties, liabilities, and obligations to and of enhanced humans and machines
- Regulating the already changing face of the human (eg mitochondrial replacement technologies, genome editing, new reproductive technologies, cyborgs)
- Intellectual property and the emerging technologies
The panel convenors, David Lawrence and Ilke Turkmendag, are both members of the Law, Innovation, and Society (LIS) research group of Newcastle University Law School (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/nuls/research/groups/lisgroup/)
Please submit paper proposals to http://sipsheff17.group.shef.ac.uk/ by April 18th 2017. Successful submissions will be informed April 26th.