Recent trials of self-driving cars, and particularly the death of a woman in Arizona killed by one such car belonging to Uber, are a reminder that living in a technological society seems to involve a special kind of social contract.

Despite new technologies generally being subject to regulation while they are being developed, at some point they become products which are let out of the lab and testbed and into the wider world. But this arguably turns the real world into an extension of the laboratory. Some of the hazards which may accompany new technologies will only be evident once they have been out in the real world for some time, as with DDT or neonicotinoid pesticides, for example.

Herein lies a quandary: if someone decides to take part in a medical experiment, informed consent is necessary. But does informed consent also apply when we live in what might be called an experimental society? How could such consent be sought if it were needed? And what would ‘informed consent’ mean here, given that any ethical concerns might be related to uncertainty about what new technologies can do?

Join Dr Chris Groves (Cardiff, Social Sciences) at The Gate from 8.00pm on Tuesday 18 September to discuss whether becoming a lab rat is the price we have to pay for the benefits of advanced technologies.

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