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Scenario Planning as a Tool for Choosing more Ethical Futures: a Case Study in Nanoscale Science and Technology

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1 Author(s)
Smadja, E.J. ; Dept. of Syst. & Inf. Eng., Virginia Univ., Charlottesville, VA

Nanoscale science and technology (NST), because of its incredible potential to alter the world we live in, has generated numerous reactions from scientists, engineers, investors, policy-makers, environmentalists, science-fiction writers, alarmists, techno-enthusiasts, and ethicists. In ethics, emphasis is placed on issues of control, access, associated risks, motives for developing the technology, cost/benefit, and potential societal, economical, environmental, ecclesiastical, educational, or political impact. Furthermore, a very few ethicists worry that NST might shake more fundamental definitions of self and other, as well as our relationship with our bodies or our natural environment. In order to better understand these ethical issues, this paper suggests the use of scenario planning (SP), an approach already widely utilized in strategy and decision making. Scenarios are systemic tools, which can help express, discuss, and evaluate different possible futures. SP takes a holistic view at the problem and involves numerous stakeholders with different viewpoints. In the end, SP provides a more transparent and democratic process for choosing the future. Moreover, SP can help unveil some previously unforeseen consequences of present decisions

Published in:

Systems and Information Engineering Design Symposium, 2006 IEEE

Date of Conference:

28-28 April 2006