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During the month of March, 2008, seventy-four individuals participated in a unique effort to formulate recommendations about how to manage an emerging array of technologies that promise to substantially and powerfully enhance human abilities. While these technologies do not yet exist--although many observers believe they are quite close--the goal of this project was to present the informed, deliberative opinions of ordinary, non-expert people for the consideration of policy makers who are responsible for managing these technologies before those technologies are deployed.

Our panelists worked simultaneously in six groups scattered across the country, in New Hampshire, Georgia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona, and California. Part of their work also involved using the Internet, so that the people in each location could exchange perspectives with the people in all the other locations.

The technologies examined by our participants come from four areas of scientific and technological growth: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technologies, and Cognitive science. These developments are often referred to as the “NBIC” technologies, or as the “converging technologies.” Collectively, developments in these areas promise dramatic and powerful improvements in human thinking, memory, emotional range, artistic expression, sensory perceptions, and longevity. At the same time, these technologies raise important and pressing issues about how they are managed, who will have access to them, and what their widespread use might mean for our values, our society and for us as individuals.

This website was the central location for the project, and now contains the results of the panelists' efforts. You are invited to explore this site, to see how the project was organized, what instructions the panelists received, to see what recommendations they generated in their Final Reports, to review transcripts of their on-line discussions, and to see the comments of experts who offered perspectives on issues the panelists found to be important.

 

Notes from First Face-to-Face Weekend

(click on link to read notes from all meeting sites)


Transcripts & slides from On-Line Sessions

(click on link to see on-line transcripts and slides)


Expert’s Written Comments

(click on link to read the Expert’s responses to your questions)


Background Materials Read by Panelists

(click on link to read the background materials provided to the panelists. Note: a pdf reader is required)




Who We Are

Project Goals

The Process



 

Who We Are

This research is funded by the U.S.National Science Foundation, through the Center for Nanotechnology in Society, at Arizona State University. The National Citizens’ Technology Forum (NCTF) involves researchers and citizen-panelists at Arizona State University, the University of California—Berkeley, the Colorado School of Mines, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of New Hampshire, and the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

 

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Project Goals

We hope to achieve these goals through this project:

  • Generate informed, deliberative public opinion about how to manage the technologies of human enhancement for elected officials, government policy makers, business leaders, etc., who will be making the important decisions about these technologies

  • Demonstrate that average, non-expert citizens can understand even quite complex issues and, if they have adequate information, they can come to sensible, informed judgments about those issues

  • Provide information to other concerned citizens about techniques like this one, that can enhance the abilities of ordinary citizens to help shape public policy on important issues

 


 

The Process

The project involves six panels of average citizens formed in six locations across the country (New Hampshire, Georgia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona, and California). Each panel will be asked to:

  1. read background materials explaining the technologies of human enhancement,
  2. discuss that information with other members of the panel,
  3. bring up and discuss any concerns or issues about those technologies,
  4. formulate recommendations about how to manage those technologies
  5. write a report that contains those recommendations and the thinking of the panel, to be given to relevant policy makers. You will have the opportunity to ask questions of experts, as well.

You will work with a team of researchers from a university at each location, who will be there to assist your discussions.

Your work will be in two settings: there will be two weekends for face-to-face discussions for each panel, on March 1 & 2, 2008, and again on March 29 & 30, 2008.

During the first face-to-face weekend (Sat March 1 & Sun March 2), you will meet the other panelists selected from your community, meet the staff who will facilitate your discussions, and discuss the overall process and goals of the project. You will begin discussing whatever considerations, issues, or perspectives you think are important when thinking about the technologies of human enhancement. Prior to the first face-to-face sessions, you will receive Background Materials we have prepared. These materials will describe the technologies of human enhancement, and provide everyone with a starting point for your discussions.

Next, there will be a series of two-hour on-line discussions, involving all of the panelists from all six sites. The on-line sessions will take place on March 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 27, and run from 6:00pm—8:00pm PST and from 9:00pm—11:00pm EST. During these on-line sessions, you will get to hear what the panelists at the other locations think are important issues or concerns. You will also formulate questions to put to experts, who will join in the on-line discussions, to provide additional information.

Finally, in the last face-to-face weekend (Sat Mar 29 & Sun Mar 30), you will consider what you have heard from all of the other panels and from the experts, and work toward generating a set of recommendations you would like elected officials, government decision makers, business leaders, and any others to think about as they make their decisions about the technologies of human enhancement. You will write a Final Report, in which you lay the recommendations you have agreed to, and explain your thinking about the issues you find important. The team at each location will help throughout, facilitating the discussions and assisting in preparing the Final Report.

In addition, you will be asked to fill out a panelists’ questionnaire once, before the first face-to-face weekend, and again after the last face-to-face weekend. This questionnaire will help us assess the impact of participating in the project.

 

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