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Issue no. 1 - 2003

by Redazione FGB [1], 15 February 2003

Scientific experiments and political decisions; the concept of responsibility undermined; the modernity of the term "risk"; impotence in the face of science and human beings' desire to overcome their limits: these are the five core concepts around which the ideas that developed into page 7 of the site's Topics are grouped.

The experiment on the cultivation of transgenic rice that caused some controversy at Casalino (Novara, Italy) was included in the previous Topics page and was a key issue for the Forum that was opened in December, entitled "Experiments and Democracy". Vittorio Bertolini, moderator of the debate, summed up the essence of the question as follows: "The problem is whether citizens are merely the end-recipients of bureaucratic-administrative decisions or actors called upon to engage in informed reflection on issues that affect them at first hand".

Piero Bassetti's presentation to the ISVOR Knowledge System Seminar (chaired by Luigi Luca Cavalli Sforza in Turin in May 2002) concerned the question of Social Responsibility in Entrepreneurs. Bassetti follows his own specific line of reasoning, from which emerges a personal vision of the problem of responsible innovation. He points out that the decision-making element of innovation has become techno-structural and collective, and claims that the concept of responsibility has been undermined. His thoughts are followed by a considered reply by Cavalli Sforza. This text is also published in English.

The entrepreneur's responsibility in evaluating the social impact of an innovation also figures largely in our treatment of the concept of "risk", an issue that is always represented on our site. Following on from the debate in the Forum (which was accompanied by recommendations for background reading, including two pieces by Ulrich Beck), a specific strand was devoted last year to risk and the way it is perceived in society.

In last December's article entitled "The Global Risk Society", published by La Repubblica, Beck maintains that "The key to the culture of insecurity lies in understanding insecurity as an element of our freedom" (English translation available on request).

Risk and the unpredictable consequences of the choices made in the name of progress: Umberto Galimberti shows us another facet of the question. Galimberti considers mankind today to be enslaved to the imperative of Technology, according to which "if it can be done, it should be done". In this view, Technology prevails over politics, Christian ethics, secular ethics and the ethics of responsibility (as understood in "Weberian" terms), because it absolves mankind of any and every anticipatory faculty. Taking as his starting point the human cloning announcement by Clonaid, he set out his thoughts in his article last December on "Man's Impotence in the Face of Science", published by La Repubblica. This issue is further investigated in the site, taking our cue from other articles and reviews.

Finally, in the "Post-Human" topic, some of our reader's documents and messages examine an aspect of human beings' desire to overcome their own limits that is tinged with noir: the bodily transformations made possible by bionics.

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