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Presentation at Inequality, Democracy and the New Human Biotechnologies: A Threshold Challenge for the 21st Century, New York, NY [PDF Version]

The new technologies of human genetic modification are among the two or three most profoundly consequential technologies of the 21st century. They have the potential for both great good and great harm. They are being developed at an extraordinary pace. There is little public oversight and control of their development and use.

If these technologies are developed and used in the prevailing context of free-market competition and individualist social values, they could greatly exacerbate existing inequalities in health and social power, and existing modes of discrimination and exploitation. In addition, certain applications of these technologies could open the door to a new high-tech eugenics that would undermine the foundations of democratic civil society.

The dynamics of inequality, democracy and the new human biotechnologies works the other way as well: at this moment, inequalities of power and influence are themselves subverting democratic decision-making concerning the development and use of the new human biotechnologies. Surveys show that Americans are...