Forbidden Research

Mim Adkins

July 21, 2016

In a world where seemingly anything is possible, there are still lines of inquiry and research that—for a host of reasons—remain forbidden. Exploring restricted scientific and cultural topics in the face of social and moral constraints requires a willingness to buck the rules; to disobey them conscientiously. You don't win a Nobel prize by doing what you're told, but there is a fuzzy line—sometimes obvious only in retrospect—between disobedience that helps society and disobedience that doesn't.

The idea of “forbidden research” challenges us to question long-standing laws and rules about what knowledge we can seek, and whether that knowledge improves or impedes the health and sustainability of society. Deeply held moral beliefs have led to laws that restrict research on organismal engineering. Artificial intelligence and machine rights raise uncomfortable social, cultural, and legal questions. Misconceptions about Islam and women’s rights are amplified around the world, especially now in a time of politically charged racism in America. Climate and environmental engineering offer massive potential and massive risk. Can we afford to take those risks? Can we afford not to?

Full video of the event is available below. 

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