Watch Flipping the Switch on Right and Wrong: Evolving Ethics in Science

Written by: The Exchange

Most people have a pretty strong sense of right and wrong and can be quick to judge others through that sharply focused ethical lens. What if everything you accepted about the notions of right and wrong changed… and all of a sudden you were the one being judged? History has shown that the lines that separate right from wrong move over time as circumstances evolve, and that advances in science and technology are often the driver of those shifts. What was once broadly acceptable becomes unthinkable. Burning heretics, previously considered a fair and just punishment is without doubt barbaric. Child marriage is no longer applauded as a family value. Slavery was practiced for thousands of years in societies spanning the globe before being deemed inhuman. Before we condemn our ancestors for these missteps, perhaps we should pause to ask ourselves what is likely to prompt the inevitable ethical realignment in our definitions of right and wrong. Join us for this provocative look at how our understanding of right and wrong is likely to evolve and how that evolution will be pushed by rapid changes in science and technology.


Juan Enriquez is a leading authority on the economic impact of life sciences and brain research on business and society as well as a respected business leader and TED all-star. He was the founding Director of the Harvard Business School’s Life Sciences Project and is a research affiliate at MIT’s synthetic neurobiology lab. Juan works directly with the CEOs of Fortune 50 companies and heads of state on how to adapt to a world where the dominant language is shifting from the digital towards the language of life. He sailed around the world on an expedition that increased the number of know genes a hundredfold and has written several bestsellers.

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.