Invitation to Participate in the University of Guelph Conference on "Ethical Choice in the Age of Pervasive Technology" October 25-28, 1989

Technologies profoundly affect the lives of everyone in every sector of the world — frequently for the better — sometimes for worse — and often with unintended and unknown consequences. Yet, human creativity, the free pursuit of knowledge, market forces, social expectations and the common belief that the advent of new technologies is synonymous with progress, drive forward the development of technologies at a relentless pace.

Is this the natural and neutral manifestation of the forces of history that will supposedly bring about the best of all possible worlds? If, however, this is not the case, then who should choose what technologies to innovate and develop, for whom and upon which scientific, economic and ethical bases?

The reality is that technological progress has also been accompanied by human and ecological damage throughout the world. Choices should no longer be left to isolated individuals, agencies nor to specific interest groups to determine future developments upon narrow economic, political, social or other sectarian grounds. There are issues, such as in the fields of ecology, international development, peace and security, bioethics, agriculture, medicine, education, communications, as well as those concerning the workplace, public perception and so forth, which should be considered on the basis of interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, governmental and inter-governmental consultations. Obviously, the list is either incomplete or otherwise inadequate.

The preliminary conference design calls for the examination, by a selected group of internationally eminent scholars, philosophers and statesmen, of such universally accepted values as justice, socio-economic and political equity and rights, freedom and security for a sustainable future. These values should guide the development, implementation, management and control of new technologies. Workshops on specific issues will reflect the broader philosophical, scientific and social concerns inherent in the relationship between social values and technologies.

As Conference Chair, I invite Science for Peace to submit ideas on how best to structure and mount this Conference and to find out whether Science for Peace may itself be interested in cooperating in the design and implementation of one of the sub-themes. Preliminary discussions with national and international institutions, scholars, and governments indicate that this Conference will rival the one on “International Peace and Security in the Nuclear Age” held at the University of Guelph in October 1983. The Conference recommendations will receive the widest distribution possible both nationally and internationally.

For further information, please feel free to contact, Dr. Henry Wiseman, Conference Chair, or Jokelee Vanderkop, Executive Assistant at the University of Guelph, Department of Political Studies, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1. Telephone (519) 824 4120, Ext. 3535 or 3532.