Technology, ethics, and human rights

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Human genomics, human enhancement, and AI & robotics: What are the challenges?

Human genomics, human enhancement and AI & robotics are powerful tools with major socio-economic impact and human rights relevance.

Human genomic technologies can be used to sequence or edit DNA, becoming powerful tools to diagnose and treat diseases. Human enhancement technologies can improve our physical, cognitive, emotional and moral abilities, challenging the boundaries between health and illness, treatment and enhancement and normality and abnormality. AI & robotics permit the interaction between humans and machines such as robots, smart devices, intelligent software agents, intelligent prosthetics, and implants.

These technologies offer benefits for both individuals and society. However, they present ethical challenges and have the potential to challenge our values, ways of living and adversely affect human rights.

Ethics-informed technological development

How can we ensure that ethics considerations are at the forefront of the development and deployment of human genomics, human enhancement and AI & robotic technologies?

The SIENNA project will produce a stakeholder-informed ethical analysis of the three technologies: human genomics, human enhancement, and AI & robotics.

The SIENNA project works with experts, civil society organisations, and citizens through ethics impact assessments, consultations, workshops, public opinion surveys in 11 countries, and citizen panels in 5 countries to produce:

  • Research ethics protocols
  • Professional ethical codes
  • Better legal frameworks

Ethical, legal and privacy impact assessment to ensure sustainable innovation

Trilateral assesses the ethical, socio-economic, public opinions, legal and human rights issues that need to be considered in the fields of genomics, human enhancement, and AI & robotics.

Trilateral considers the extent to which genomics, human enhancement and AI & robotics technologies may pose risk to citizens, and what measures can be taken to mitigate and avoid unwanted negative impact to human autonomy, equality, personal liberty, privacy and accountability.

Working with citizens to evaluate and validate sound research

Trilateral engages citizens to evaluate the societal acceptance and awareness of AI & robotics technology via a telephone survey. The following countries are part of the survey: France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United States, China, South Africa and Brazil.

Enhancing Impact by raising awareness and strengthening engagement

Trilateral works on enhancing the project findings by creating a network including scientists, ethicists, policymakers and lawyers, amplifying SIENNA’s results and encouraging the adoption of the project’s ethical protocols, ethical codes and legislation, to promote the ethical development of novel technologies.


Policy advice to ensure responsible innovation

As part of the SIENNA project, Trilateral analyses the legal and human rights requirements of AI & robotics development; assesses societal acceptance and awareness of these technologies, and produces a code of responsible conduct for researchers in AI & robotics that outlines important ethical considerations that must be adhered to in the development and deployment of AI & robotic technologies.

Trilateral will also develop a general methodology that can be used by research funding organisations to help reconcile the needs of scientific researchers and (e.g., access to biological materials for research) and the legitimate concerns of citizens (e.g., abuse of sensitive data).


For more information and updates visit the SIENNA website and follow us on Twitter.














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The SIENNA project – Stakeholder-informed ethics for new technologies with high socio-economic and human rights impact- has received funding from the European Union’s H2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 741716.

Rowena Rodrigues

Rowena Rodrigues is Senior Research Manager at Trilateral Research.

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