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Nanotechnology views wanted by EC, including on enhancement

In the process of preparing a nanotechnology Code of Conduct, the European Commission is requesting public input on a consultation paper. It sounds as though everyone is welcome to contribute.

Being from Europe, the paper cites the precautionary principle, but goes further by listing some areas which may be too risky or unethical or rights-violating for even the precautionary principle to do the job. Specifically these are:

E.g.: Free release of solid insoluble nanoparticles into the environment (without the knowledge of the impacts); Remote control of human behaviour; Physical alteration or enhancement of the human brain or of the heritable genetic code for non therapeutic purposes; Human enhancement with the sole purpose to increase achievements in competitive sports; Non-therapeutic enhancement of human capabilities that create a risk of dependence, or are irreversible or are beyond the range of normal human capabilities.

It seems to me that building a campfire violates the first point, drinking coffee violates the third, and LASIK eye surgery violates the last one. My point here is that perhaps we don’t want to try to define what are “normal human capabilities” and make anything better be illegal. Certainly it’s appalling to imagine the U.S. Congress or U.S. Supreme Court trying to do this.

Of course, it is up to Europeans to decide what to do inside the EU. But their Code of Conduct is likely to be proposed as a model elsewhere.

This is not to say that Codes of Conduct are not needed; they are —the Foresight Guidelines are one example. And we do need to protect weaker members of society from abuse, including technological abuse.

Thanks to Winter Casey, staff writer at the National Journal’s Technology Daily, for bringing this to our attention. —Christine

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