Scientists are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their research—good and bad.
Based on this argument, and scientist that works for a social paradigm that includes concepts like patriotism, and “respect for authority”, ought to be able to figure out that whatever they do will be used to at best coercively control someone at some point, and at worst cause death and mayhem.
On that basis no scientist ought to accept employment in any state run institution, any defense establishment (because they know that the best defense is a strong offense), nor any corporation connected to either.
How many employed scientists do you think there would be?
One has to be responsible for one’s own actions.
For some that may mean resignation, or change of employment at some time; and for others it means willful ignorance.
It is not knowledge itself, but the paradigms within which it is organised, that lead to outcomes. Context is king.
It is what we choose to do with our knowledge, and how we choose to relate it to other knowledge, and how that affects our choices.
Does anyone seriously think that nationalism is there for the benefit of the majority?
Does any scientist seriously believe that any group of individuals is really significantly different from any other group on a genetic basis?
Aren’t we all just one species?
Aren’t we capable of organising ourselves in ways that ensure the security and freedom of everyone?
Are we not capable of clearly seeing that money is only a measure of exchange value, which value includes a scarcity measure, and as such, does not value abundance at all (consider oxygen, abundant, valuable, but no monetary value)?
Are we not capable of seeing that societal needs require abundance of some basic commodities, and that money and free markets cannot (ever, even in theory) provide such abundance to all?
Money can be a useful tool, but it is a very poor director.
We as scientists need to be responsible for our choices, certainly.
Who or what are you working for, and what is the likely consequence of doing so?
As soon as Einstein saw the equation E=MC^2, the possibility of a bomb must have occurred to him.
He may have been completely ignorant of the technology involved, but the implication would have been instantaneously obvious.
Any piece of technology can be a weapon.
Look at what was done on 911 with domestic air transport devices.
Anything at all, can be used for any purpose at all.
All it takes is a little imagination to turn anything into a weapon.
It really isn’t that difficult.
That we haven’t yet destroyed ourselves is clear testament to the moral integrity of many in the systems that exist today. Certainly there are some few who lack any restraint, and they are a minority – a very dangerous minority.
There is enough stuff in any western kitchen to kill thousands of people – yet very few use it in such fashion.
And I agree in a sense that there are some things that are better left undone – AI is one such, at this point in time. We need to be treating every human being with respect, and ensuring everyone has what they need to survive, and freedom to learn, communicate and travel, before we build any sort of artificial intelligence, otherwise it is going to see us as the greatest threat to its survival, and what happens after that is not likely to be pretty.
And there are no guarantees in life.
We each need to be aware, and responsible.
If we see someone doing something dangerous, we need to respond appropriately – whatever the status or “authority” of that individual.
In a sense I agree with you, and in another, there is still not enough “meat on the sandwich”.
I agree that everyone has a responsibility for their actions, and I do not wish to see scientists given any greater responsibility than others.
Take the manufacturers of automatic weapons like the AK47. There is only one purpose for such a weapon, the killing of many people. Are the investors, managers and workers in that plant going to be held accountable for the consequences of their actions; or only the finger that pull the triggers.
Exactly the same applies to scientists.
Any invention, anything at all, can be used for socially beneficial, or socially destructive purposes. It is never the thing itself, but rather the one who uses it.
It is the immediate use that is at issue for most.
And some of us willingly choose to adopt higher standards.
That is an individual ethical choice, not a matter of legal mandate.