I recently heard a talk by Lone Frank (author of the book “My Beautiful Genome” where during the discussion after the talk, she made the point that we should not hide the fact that eugenics is coming. She continued to specify that we are talking about personal eugenics – not the kind of eugenics practiced in authoritarianism.
I think this is a very good point and one that is missed by almost all opponents of the new genomic era, an era which, let’s be Frank about this, is sure to bring the sorting society to reality.
Why is personal eugenics different ? Well simply because there is a choice involved – that really is the whole difference. It involves replacing the sentence “Only healthy seeds must be sown” in the illustration above with something like “You can choose healthy seeds to be sown”. In a near-future transhumanist society a poster like this would most likely be an add for some ART/IVF-company and not propaganda from some dictatorship government.
While these may seem like subtle changes, they make a huge ethical difference. The discussion we need to have is not about eugenics forced upon us, but about eugenics as a personal choice.
Criticism of transhumanism is certainly in its place many times, and constructive criticism is surely needed to restrain our sometimes naive enthusiasm for technology. But, using comparisons to authoritarian eugenics (like the one practized in nazi-germany) is however, not very constructive (or even valid), since the principle of free choice is so central in transhumanist thinking.
Any true transhumanist will acknowledge the universal and absolute right for anyone to say no to technology, if they wish.
Any true transhumanist believes strongly in equality for all – whether “natural” or “enhanced”. Some so much so that they seek to avoid harming any life-form whatsoever.
I resent any comparison of transhumanism to racist/nazi – thinking. I believe transhumanism is about the opposite – equality for all. In fact I believe that embracing most, if not all technological developments is the only way to achieve this.
On our way there, we need to sort out our response to personal eugenics.