How to Object to Radically New Technologies on the Basis of Justice: The Case of Synthetic Biology


  • David Hunter

  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared

Address for correspondence: Dr David Hunter, Associate Professor of Medical Ethics, School of Medicine, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. Email:


A recurring objection to the exploration, development and deployment of radical new technologies is based on their implications with regards to social justice. In this article, using synthetic biology as an example, I explore this line of objection and how we ought to think about justice in the context of the development and introduction of radically new technologies. I argue that contrary to popular opinion, justice rarely provides a reason not to investigate, develop and introduce radical new technologies, although it may have significant implications for how they ought to be introduced. In particular I focus on the time dependency of justice objections and argue that often these function by looking only at the implications of the introduction of the technology at the point of introduction, rather than the more important long-term impact on patterns of distribution and opportunity.