On BioScience and Life and Such

Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

Be afraid, be very afraid … not

In Transhumanism on October 26, 2012 at 11:13 am

In response to this post by my favourite catholic blogger (!) who writes:

Transhumanists will tell you that the enhancements they propose for the human race will always be “optional.” Freedom and choice are their mantra. Freedom to enhance ourselves and our offspring, or not. That is our choice.

In contrast, I have continually argued that transhumanism is by nature coercive. Once we begin to radically change our bodies and our genetics, everyone will have to follow suit or be left behind.

I do understand her concern, it is a valid one, and one that is very frequently encountered when disruptive technologies emerge. It is however almost always a minor concern it would seem if you use comparable technological advances in our recent past as giudeline-examples. Take cosmetic surgery. While cosmetic surgery when it first became available, was regarded as an enhancement, – it has never become “coercive”. The reason is simply that it is not considered an enhancement by everyone. And of all those cosmetic enhancements that are available, very few opt for all of them since preferences for physical appearance is extremely individual.

I believe other kinds of enhancements (intelligence, endurance, physical strength, charm or what have you ..) will follow the same pattern in the future. While one particular enhancement will be desireable for one individual, someone else may find it repulsive and choose either a different enhancement or none at all.

In my mind such a future encompasses more diversity and more choices for anyone to fix whatever is considered by them personally as impairments or obstacles to personal development. The ones “left behind” by enhancement-technologies will probably be those who had no particular need for them in the first place. Consequence of such a scenario: more equal opportunities. Which would be a gaping contrast to the fear-inspired scenario above.

Mary Meets Dolly will continue to be my favourite catholic blog (!) because she does voice the sensible opposition to some of the more far-fetched transhumanist ideas out there. But, those ideas are just that, – far fetched.

Transhumanism to me means having the positive potential of technology as a starting point. If you choose to always use the worst case scenario when considering future developments, you’ll end up going backwards.

Have no fear.