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Welcome! Great post! One complicating factor is that almost any set of ethical and legal safeguards will require us to wrestle with value questions that are interesting and timeless. We should feel free to wrestle with those questions even in the context of rather futuristic technologies. For the reasons you and Pat give, though, it does seem wise to be up-front about the futuristic nature of technologies one discusses.

I wonder too whether internet privacy and other concerns would have been mitigated if ethicists and law professors had spoken up sooner or more vocally. Maybe they would have. Perhaps journalists would have picked up more stories on the topic and that would have translated into action by politicians. I just don't know enough to be confident, though. Maybe some concerns are just exceptionally difficult for average people to get their heads around until they experience them. That's a depressing thought for those concerned with setting up legal and ethical frameworks.

Absolutely Adam, we're always free to address value questions in any way we want. Thought experiments can be very useful. But in the context of practical applications and a continuum of too soon/hype versus too little too late, it might be useful to consider how we could address the timing of ethics more systematically (if possible). At least at the symposium some remarks made me think about this issue. Currently this might happen largely on the basis of intuition or influenced by media attention. In my own work I try to indicate (but I should be more consistent) whether I'm discussing implications of technology that could be 'out there' in say the next five years or so; or applications that might be forthcoming, though significantly later (so out there perhaps in the ± 10-20 year range); or the 'in principle let's do science fiction' type of scenarios (50 years to 'when/if ever'). But I would appreciate a more methodical way of approaching this 'when will it be urgent' issue. Maybe it already exists?

Great points! I agree!

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