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Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond To The Redesigned Human Of The Future

Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond To The Redesigned Human Of The Future

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Published by Basic Books
A provocative work by medical ethicist James Hughes, Citizen Cyborg argues that technologies pushing the boundaries of humanness can radically improve our quality of life if they are controlled democratically. Hughes challenges both the technophobia of Leon Kass and Francis Fukuyama and the unchecked enthusiasm of others for limitless human enhancement. He argues instead for a third way, "democratic transhumanism," by asking the question destined to become a fundamental issue of the twenty-first century: How can we use new cybernetic and biomedical technologies to make life better for everyone? These technologies hold great promise, but they also pose profound challenges to our health, our culture, and our liberal democratic political system. By allowing humans to become more than human - "posthuman" or "transhuman" - the new technologies will require new answers for the enduring issues of liberty and the common good. What limits should we place on the freedom of people to control their own bodies? Who should own genes and other living things? Which technologies should be mandatory, which voluntary, and which forbidden? For answers to these challenges, Citizen Cyborg proposes a radical return to a faith in the resilience of our democratic institutions.
A provocative work by medical ethicist James Hughes, Citizen Cyborg argues that technologies pushing the boundaries of humanness can radically improve our quality of life if they are controlled democratically. Hughes challenges both the technophobia of Leon Kass and Francis Fukuyama and the unchecked enthusiasm of others for limitless human enhancement. He argues instead for a third way, "democratic transhumanism," by asking the question destined to become a fundamental issue of the twenty-first century: How can we use new cybernetic and biomedical technologies to make life better for everyone? These technologies hold great promise, but they also pose profound challenges to our health, our culture, and our liberal democratic political system. By allowing humans to become more than human - "posthuman" or "transhuman" - the new technologies will require new answers for the enduring issues of liberty and the common good. What limits should we place on the freedom of people to control their own bodies? Who should own genes and other living things? Which technologies should be mandatory, which voluntary, and which forbidden? For answers to these challenges, Citizen Cyborg proposes a radical return to a faith in the resilience of our democratic institutions.

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Publish date: Oct 27, 2004
Added to Scribd: Jun 12, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9780786722914
List Price: $30.95

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01/14/2015

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9780786722914

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plappen_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
New technologies are coming in the near future that have the potential to radically change what it means to be human. This book looks at why democratic societies must respond to things like cloning, genetic engineering and nanotechnology, instead of pretending that they don’t exist.What the author calls "bio-Luddites" are opposed to such new technologies, because they feel that mankind should be happy with its 70 (or so) years of life, characterized by increasing bodily disfunction in its later stages. Another reason for opposition is the vague, but always there, possibility of a disaster unleashing some new plague on the world. Some people say that taboos and gut feelings are the path to wisdom. If a new technology feels spooky, ban it immediately. The Catholic Church opposes such things because they are supposedly offensive to God.On the other hand, if a person is found to be a carrier for, or genetically susceptible to, Disease X, don’t they have the right to fix their DNA (assuming a safe and reliable method can be found to do so)? Those who call themselves transhumanists (based on humanism) believe that people should have the right to modify their bodies, whether the quest is for greater intelligence, longevity or a happier outlook on life. They are the first to assert that there must be adequate discussion beforehand, and adequate safeguards after the introduction of a new technology. Such things must also be available to all people, through some sort of universal health insurance, not just to the rich. Transhumanists have no desire to take over the world, but one of the subjects for social consideration has to be how to extinguish potential schisms between humans and posthumans. To those who think that some new regulatory agency is needed, the author does not agree. Agencies like the FDA and EPA will be able to do the job, if they ever get the funding and authority needed. Don’t forget that 25 years ago, in vitro fertilization was considered an abomination; now it is practically mainstream.This is a pretty specialized book, but it shouldn’t be. Like it or not, the new technologies described in this book are coming in the near future. It is better to start discussing, now, how to deal with them, instead of just saying No. The reader may not agree with everything in this book, but it is an excellent place to begin that discussion.
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