On behalf of the Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University, we have the honor to invite you to participate in an international study to identify the most important future ethical issues that may face humanity in the foreseeable future and how they might be resolved.
The Millennium Project is a global participatory system that collects, synthesizes, and feeds back judgments on an ongoing basis about prospects for the human condition. Its annual State of the Future, Futures Research Methodology, and other special reports are used by decision-makers and educators to add focus to important issues, clarify choices, and improve the quality of decisions.
You have been nominated by one of the 23 Nodes of the Millennium Project or as the result of an international literature search on the basis of your insights into ethical thought.
There are many institutes devoted to the study of ethics, and studies of current ethical issues that range from labor-management relations to human trafficking. This study is not trying to duplicate those many worthy efforts. Instead it is intended to explore ethical issues that may arise in the future, which are not well understood today, and that may need years to fully assess and address. This study is an early step in that process.
This international assessment will be conducted via a three-round Delphi. Round 1 (below) invites you to add future ethical issues to an initial list and identify the values underlying these issues may change over the next 25-50 years. Round 2 will ask you to rate the expanded list of ethical issues and changes in values. Round 3 will ask for your insights about how these issues might be addressed. The results will be published in the 2005 State of the Future. Complimentary copies will be sent to those who respond to this questionnaire. No attributions will be made, but respondents will be listed as participants in the report.
Please add your suggestions to the lists below and contact us with any questions. Please return your responses by 15 October. You can respond on-line at http://www.acunu.org/millennium/ethics-rd1.html or e-mail it as an attached file to firstname.lastname@example.org with copies to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to including your views.
Jerome C. Glenn, Director
Theodore J. Gordon, Senior Fellow
Current Sponsors: Amana-Key, Applied Materials, Dar Almashora (for Kuwait Petroleum Corporation), Deloitte & Touche,
Army Environmental Policy Institute. Inkind: Smithsonian Institution, World Future Society, and World Federation of United Nations Associations.
AC/UNU Millennium Project
Future Ethical Issues
Round 1 - Introduction
The International Declaration of Human Rights and hundreds of other international agreements define the normative state of global ethics, yet there are many issues that have not yet been confronted that could arise in the foreseeable future. Twenty years ago the Internet was unheard of, yet today the ethics about giving easy access to dangerous and repulsive information is debated worldwide. It is reasonable to assume that future ethical issues may seem far out today. The values with which we judge them today may evolve: what we value as delightful today may become obsolete and that which we abhor may become ordinary and accepted.
The great ethical issues of an age are often codified in laws that reflect or indeed define public values. With the acceleration of change, the intensity of value conflicts will also increase. The public, law makers, judges and others who define what is right may not have sufficient time to consider all the ramifications of the emerging and intensifying ethical issues. This study is intended to contribute to an evolving body of literature on future ethical issues and a range of views about those issues. If successful, this could serve as background to the emerging debates about coming issues before they became a matter of urgency. There are also ethical issues that will not be reflected in law, but will nevertheless guide behavior. In either case, there are complex future ethical issues that we as a species need to take time to think through.
For the purpose of this study, an "ethical issue" is defined as a question about what is right or wrong to do and "values" are defined as the rationales or bases for judging what is right or wrong.
This first round is intended to extend the list of future ethical issues and to begin to identify the values which underpin these ethical issues, and that might change. The results will be grouped and synthesized, and then in later rounds assessed to identify the most pressing future ethical issues and approaches to their resolution.
AC/UNU Millennium Project
Future Ethical Issues Round 1
Section 1: Please add suggested issues in the form of a question similar to those listed below. You may also suggest changes to the wording of any issue on the list. Please do not answer or evaluate the questions below yet – you will be invited to do that in Rounds 2 and 3.
Naturally, some future issues are further in the future than others; hence, the questions are grouped into three time periods: 2005-2010; 2010-2025; and 2025-2050. Add issues in any time period that seems appropriate to you. Please add significant issues
Whose existence or dimensions seem likely to be affected by future changes; and
Whose resolution promises to change human behavior, for better or worse.
Space is provided for you to add your suggested issues at the end of each time period.
Issues 2005-2010 What is the ethical way to intervene in a country that is endangering people significantly enough to justify collective action by other countries, abridging the first nation’s sovereignty?
Is it right for governments or the public to intervene in the scientific process when, on the one hand, unimpeded science has such great promise but on the other, unintended deleterious consequences are a plausible result of the research?
Do people and organizations have a right to pollute if they can pay for it; e.g., by paying carbon taxes, pollution fines, carbon trading, etc.?
Should religious or scientific views prevail in embryonic stem cell research?
Should codes of ethics be created and enforced by an international agency to guide the behavior of international corporations?
Should national sovereignty and cultural differences be allowed to prevent international intervention designed to stop widespread male violence to women?
Do we have a right to clone ourselves?
Does society have a right to clone animals?
Should religions give up the claim of certainty and/or superiority to reduce religion-related conflicts?
Does the possible use of future weapons (like dirty bombs or biological weapons) by an individual or group justify governments to ignore the rights of those individuals and groups, and those of innocent others who might be related in some way, to prevent the anticipated action?
What is the ethical way to intervene into any educational system that teaches hate and violence?
PLEASE ADD YOUR FUTURE ETHICAL ISSUES FOR 2005-2010 HERE: Issues 2010-2025 Should there be two standards for athletic, musical, and other forms of competition: one for the un-augmented and another for those whose performance has been enhanced by drugs, bionics, genetic engineering, and/or nanobots?
Should information pollution (as environmental pollution is now) become a crime?
Is it ethical for society to recreate extinct species?
With a vastly more interconnected world, when ideas, people, and resources can clearly come together to solve a problem or achieve an opportunity, is it unethical to do nothing to connect them, when it is clearly in one’s power to do so?
In this time period it is possible for an individual to become or initiate a weapon of mass destruction. Is it right to integrate the systems of education, security, and mental health to prevent young people from growing up into deranged adults who may be capable of using weapons of mass destruction in the future?
Is it right to computer augment or genetically enhance our pets and other animals’ brains?
PLEASE ADD YOUR FUTURE ETHICAL ISSUES FOR 2010-2025 HERE:
Issues 2025-2050 If technology grows a mind of its own, what ethical obligations do we have for its behavior?
Do we have the right to genetically change ourselves into a new or several new species?
Is it right to allow the creation of future elites who have augmented themselves with artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, without inventing a way to manage their superhuman abilities?
Is it right for humans to merge with technology, as one way to prevent technological hegemony?
With accelerating advances in psychoactive drugs and virtual reality, should there be limits to the pursuit of artificial happiness?
Should artificial life (life-mimicking software, sentient robots, etc.) have rights?
PLEASE ADD YOUR FUTURE ETHICAL ISSUES FOR 2025-2050 HERE: Section 2: The values that one uses to judge ethical issues may change over the next 25 to 50 years. Below are some of the values that would determine how one might judge the ethics of the questions of the sort listed above.
Please change these statements if you wish and add to the list in the space provided at the end:
Life is a divine unalterable gift
Scientific research is the most reliable path to truth
Harmony with nature is more important then economic progress
Collective judgment is better than individual judgment
Collective security is more important than individual freedom