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Keywords:

  • Buddhism;
  • bioinformatics;
  • genetics;
  • individual;
  • privacy

ABSTRACT

Bioinformatics is a new field of study whose ethical implications involve a combination of bioethics, computer ethics and information ethics. This paper is an attempt to view some of these implications from the perspective of Buddhism. Privacy is a central concern in both computer/information ethics and bioethics, and with information technology being increasingly utilized to process biological and genetic data, the issue has become even more pronounced. Traditionally, privacy presupposes the individual self but as Buddhism does away with the ultimate conception of an individual self, it has to find a way to analyse and justify privacy that does not presuppose such a self. It does this through a pragmatic conception that does not depend on a positing of the substantial self, which is then found to be unnecessary for an effective protection of privacy. As it may be possible one day to link genetic data to individuals, the Buddhist conception perhaps offers a more flexible approach, as what is considered to be integral to an individual person is not fixed in objectivity but depends on convention.