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J. Craig Venter: Steal this drug.
Underdeveloped countries should ignore intellectual property restrictions -- and we should promote that -- to enable them to get medicine and other products they need until they reach a more advanced stage, said Venter, who reminded the audience that the United States did exactly that in its early years. Simon Best, whose company, Ardana Biosciences, makes a living in part on IP, begged to differ: “Steal is an interesting way to put, but there’s a range of options.”

Arthur Caplan: Death is optional. Americans see few limits, are enamored of technology, and have great expectations. They think death is optional, Caplan said wryly. Europeans, Best said, have a more cautious view of technology’s capacity to improve and greater suspicion of its ability to harm. One practical consequence is the very different regulatory environments on each continent.

Simon Best: Doing Dolly. Who made the decision to clone Dolly? “A very small number of people,” Best said. “A lot of people had tried. There was a dwindling group who believed it could actually be done with mammals. Around the table would have been two or three academics [and] the government agency that actually funded the research, which was the ministry of agriculture.”

Francis Fukuyama: Déjà vu ... yet again. You have a world history of technological innovation going back to the discovery of agriculture. “At the beginning, people think [technology] is unregulable and chaotic, but time passes and people figure out what’s good and bad and usually come up with a system of rules. The question is, does [regulation] anticipate, or does it take a disaster like thalidomide to define appropriate limits.” 

Kevin Fitzgerald: Babble or Babel. Myths such as Icarus and the Tower of Babel are pieces of embodied wisdom found in age-old tradition and often administered by religion. Science finds itself “pushing up against some of that wisdom that tries to say you can’t do it all and if you try to do it all, you’re going to end up actually doing more harm than good. Usually we discover limits in hindsight.”


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