J. D. Heyes
October 20, 2013
Ethical concerns are always a topic of discussion when it comes to the intersection of technology and humanity, and as the rise of robots progresses, there are ethical questions which need to be addressed, says one expert.
Academic Bertolt Meyer, who is nicknamed “the bionic man,” said recently “that scientists and engineers should not be allowed to launch some technological advances on the open market without a prior ethical debate,” Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports.
The keynote speaker at the “FutureFest” in east London, Meyer – who has had a cutting-edge ?40,000 artificial lower arm and hand since 2009 – discussed whether the public should allow the economic laws of supply and demand dictate how mankind gravitates toward a probable “bionic” future, where bodies of those people with access and available finances will be able to augment and enhance themselves.
‘Arrogant and naive’
“We are reaching the point where people with artificial limbs may have an advantage. It they start to appeal to everyone, a mass market will develop,” he said, arguing that, in the throes of development, engineers on the cusp of research and development don’t always think through the impact of their work and the ethical aspects involved.
In a separate interview with the Observer, Meyer said he thought the business community would be “arrogant and naive” if it collectively continued to assume that commercial interests could and would solve ethical dilemmas on their own.
“These issues have to be decided by law makers, but public debate like this helps to set people thinking. It is only high-level political bodies that will have the authority to put laws into place. They have to work out how we are going to regulate the market,” he said.
He went on to note that, in some parts of the world already, cosmetic surgery has become the new normal for the wealthy.
“Ethicists are thinking about these things already, of course, but they don’t really have a public voice,” he said. “I certainly don’t think all these innovations are necessarily negative, though.”
As reported by the Guardian:
Meyer’s documentary, How to Build a Bionic Man, was shown on Channel 4 in February and will be aired in America next month. It looks at the advanced prosthetic limbs that will soon become available, at a cost, and also at prototypes of artificial organs, including implantable lungs and plastic kidneys, that are not rejected by the host body.
Is there a backlash coming?
So clearly, the technology is advancing rapidly – and is already becoming part of the global lexicon.
In referencing the Paralympic Games in 2012, Meyer said that competition raised the profile of high-performance disability, along with the question of unfair advantages such technology creates. And he wonders if there is some sort of backlash in the offing.
“We can’t leave everything to individual entrepreneurship,” he said. “‘Hunger? Oh yes, there’s an app, or a business plan for that!’ Ethical questions are on the very bottom of large corporations’ to-do lists. We cannot leave these issues to businesses alone.”