The mission of the IPE is to develop and promote research on ethical issues facing the public, with special emphasis on fostering deliberation amongst ethicists, scientists, and policy makers. UC San Diego is one of the world’s greatest producers of technology, medical innovations and scientific knowledge. These developments can offer great benefits to humanity, but they often raise urgent ethical questions. The aim of IPE is to engage responsibly these questions. 

It took decades for society to move from the horse to the car, from the vacuum tube to television. Today, by contrast, scientific and technological innovations are occurring at increasing speed and translated into society faster than ever before. Research into stem cells, genetic engineering, synthetic biology, robotics, driverless automobiles, big data and personalized medicine are but a few examples. Some examples of important questions include: 

  • Is it ethical to release into the wild a mosquito genetically modified so that it cannot transmit malaria, even if the modified mosquito is expected to replace the non-modified ones within a short time?
  • What ethical principles should we program into driverless cars? In a possible accident, should the car try to prevent the least overall human suffering or instead treat the occupant of the car differently from others in its calculations?
  • Is it ethical to conduct social science experiments that actually influence the outcomes of the societies, such as experiments on framing candidates’ positions in elections?
  • Since big data comes from society, what are the social obligations of big data analytics?
  • Under what conditions should children be recruited for clinical trials in medicine?
  • What would be the impact on society if people could easily modify the genes of their children for whatever trait they wished?
  • As brain imagining technology improves, should evidence from neuroscience affect our judgements of criminal and moral culpability?
  • Is it ethical to spray reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect some sunlight in an effort to reduce global warming? If so, who should decide? 

IPE will help close the gap between the pace of innovation and our ability to deal with these questions responsibly.

Activities will include high visibility international speakers and conferences on issues of public concern; forming interdisciplinary research groups consisting of existing faculty, PhD students, postdocs and visiting professors; promoting publicly available research, academic publications, interventions in popular media, white papers or policy proposals, or other forms of creative expression, and more.