The Ethics of Global Catastrophic Risk from Dual-Use Bioengineering

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine, vol. 4, no. 1, pages 59-72.

12 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2016  

Seth D. Baum

Global Catastrophic Risk Institute

Grant S. Wilson

Global Catastrophic Risk Institute

Date Written: January 7, 2014

Abstract

Global catastrophic risks (GCRs) are risks of events that could significantly harm or even destroy civilization at the global scale. GCR raises a number of profound ethical issues, with a range of ethical theories suggesting that GCR reduction should be society's top priority. This paper discusses GCR ethics in the context of dual-use bioengineering: bioengineering that can cause either benefit or harm, including increases and decreases in GCR. Advances in bioengineering offer great promise, but also introduce new perils. Key ethical questions include what phenomena hold intrinsic value and how the phenomena are valued across space and time. Another key question is how decisions about bioengineering risks should be made. The global scope of bioengineering and GCR suggests a role for international law. Bioengineering does not fall neatly within existing international regimes such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, Cartagena Protocol, and Biological Weapons Convention. An international regime with comprehensive coverage of bioengineering would help address dual-use bioengineering as it relates to GCR.

Keywords: risk, ethics, biotechnology, bioengineering, international law

Suggested Citation

Baum, Seth D. and Wilson, Grant S., The Ethics of Global Catastrophic Risk from Dual-Use Bioengineering (January 7, 2014). Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine, vol. 4, no. 1, pages 59-72.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2807396

Seth D. Baum (Contact Author)

Global Catastrophic Risk Institute ( email )

Grant S. Wilson

Global Catastrophic Risk Institute ( email )

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