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Why ethics and science move at different speeds, and the unfortunate trend to legalize research ethics

Kjersti Lohne is a Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law at the University of Oslo. She took part in the first Plenary session «Are there ethical limits to what science can achieve and should pursue», held at the World Science Forum on 21 November 2019 in Budapest, and moderated by Olivier Dessibourg, deputy editor-in-chief of Here is her talk.

When I sat down to think about what to say during this panel entitled «Are there ethical limits to what science can achieve or should pursue», I couldn’t help but feel intellectually stuck in three paradoxes, paradoxes that I think animate our condition today, and that I take as a point of departure for my talk.

First. Alongside the unprecedented potential of science and technology to solve complex global challenges, there is a perpetual threat of a catastrophe: from the atomic bomb to chemical, biological and robotic warfare, to genome editing, data-driven political elections, artificial intelligence – the foundations of civilization as we know them are at stake. Rupture may lie ahead of us – a future unknown to us. At the same time, there is a profound faith in technologized solutions to almost every problem – representing a form of technological utopianism.

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