What is bioethics for, indeed what is ethics for? This introductory biographical essay gives some sense of what I have been trying to do in my life in bioethics and of some of the influences and events that have shaped its course. I explain what brought me into bioethics and science ethics and why I continue to feel that bioethics is important and worth the serious attention of anyone concerned with the future of humanity. I sketch a sort of intellectual biography which may help to situate my ideas and approach to bioethics in some seminal events in my life. These events start when I was twelve years old with the death if my parents and continue through periods as a factory worker, a salesman, a lawyer, then a student and finally a professional philosopher.
I talked in my essay at the beginning of this volume about my own efforts at self-improvement, a form of human enhancement which is not often discussed in the vast current literature on enhancement. In this essay I to turn to the efforts of others to effect my improvement either by friendly criticism or commentary or by sending in my direction thoughts from which I have undoubtedly benefitted and which I hope will interest and engage all readers of this book. All the chapters in this book deserve very detailed study and discussion and all are more than just commentaries or discussion pieces. I also note that each chapter is a self-contained and elegant contribution to the literature which would be worth reading in its own right quite independently of any engagement with my own approaches to the issues discussed. In this essay I say some, necessarily very brief, things, if not always in response, then at least about the very stimulating essays which comprise this book. It is part a response to my critics and part a further clarification of my philosophy.
Never have the scope and limits of scientific freedom been more important or more under attack. New science, from artificial intelligence to genomic manipulation, creates unique opportunities to make the world a better place. But it also presents unprecedented dangers, which many believe threaten the survival of humanity and the planet. This collection, by an international and multidisciplinary group of leading thinkers, addresses three vital questions: (1) How are scientific developments impacting on human life and on the structure of societies? (2) How is science regulated, and how should it be regulated? (3) Are there ethical boundaries to scientific developments in some sensitive areas (e.g. robotic intelligence, biosecurity)? The contributors are drawn from many disciplines, and approach the issues in diverse ways to secure the widest representation of the many interests engaged. They include some of the most distinguished academics working in this field, as well as young scholars.