, 2:317

Ethics, Speculation, and Values

Original Paper


Some writers claim that ethicists involved in assessing future technologies like nanotechnology and human enhancement devote too much time to debating issues that may or may not arise, at the expense of addressing more urgent, current issues. This practice has been claimed to squander the scarce and valuable resource of ethical concern. I assess this view, and consider some alternatives to ‘speculative ethics’ that have been put forward. I argue that attempting to restrict ethical debate so as to avoid considering unacceptably speculative scenarios would not only leave scientific progress devoid of ethical guidance, but would also rule out some of our most important ethical projects. I conclude that the issue of speculation is a red herring: what is most important is not that ethicists concentrate on current issues or those that are most likely to arise; but that ethicists, scientists, and others focus on maximising what is most valuable.


Cost-benefit analysis Enhancement Ethics Nanotechnology Precautionary principle Science Speculation Technology Values 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Future of Humanity InstituteUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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