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Promises and perils of emerging technologies for human condition

Voices from four postcommunist Central and East European countries


Edited By Peter Sýkora

Emerging technologies are defined as fast-growing radically novel technologies with an estimated prominent impact on human society in the future. The ambiguity and uncertainty of emerging technologies at the same time raise techno-optimistic expectations, as well as serious worries about possible unwanted and unpredicted negative consequences following their introduction into wider practice. And because of their radical novelty, emerging technologies also challenge various traditional philosophical and ethical concepts, established risk assessment methods, science and technology governance and policies, science to public communication and practices within and outside the medical domain. The aim of this volume is to present the view of ten authors from four postcommunist Central and East European countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Latvia) on emerging technologies and human enhancement. They analyse the topic from various perspectives: anthropological, ethical, philosophical, ontological, empirical, and legal. A variety of views will contribute to a development of the discourse on technology assessment in their countries, help to make the process of national policy and law formation more active and less “mimetic”, and open the national discourses to international discussion and critical analysis.

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Chap. 6. Relevance of ontological and anthropological concepts in synthetic biology

Chapter 6


Jana Tomašovičová

Abstract: Synthetic biology is a new research area in which the goal is to create new lifeforms. This raises a number of important questions in philosophy. In this chapter the author begins by outlining the basic research strategies used in synthetic biology and then goes on to explore the associated ontological and anthropological problems. At the ontological level, she reflects on the criteria for determining the ontological status of a synthetically created organism and on the criteria for distinguishing between complex biological systems and artefacts. Despite being synthetic in origin the resulting organism will display properties and developmental processes found in complex living organisms, consequently the author argues in favour of an ontological interpretation in which these organisms are conceived of as wholes, as is the case in ontological interpretations of natural living organisms. At the anthropological level she considers the extent to which new knowledge in synthetic biology is changing the human image and self-understanding. Since both life and human beings are viewed as having been constituted culturally and historically within a scientific framework, and given the relatively stable as well as currently changing forms of knowledge, it is important to reflect on what the consequences of new knowledge might be for the anthropological conception of human beings.

Decoding the genome has opened up new perspectives in biological research. This means that it is now possible in biology to access the molecular level of living organisms, expand existing knowledge...

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