Hutnanity 2.


Translunnanisis believe tJwt human nature's a phase we'll OlitgroW, like adolescence.

Someday we'll be full-f1eduecl adult postllllmrms, with physical and intellectual power;c; of which we can now only dream. But will (Jrogress really make perfect?

by Carl Elliott

At the fro II [ ur the conference room, Robert Hnldbur_v of the Aeivos Corporalien i!> [,lIking about immortality. He's showill~ II~ Powerfoint slides. williscicniinc graphs and charts, He's tdli'lg LIS about an artificial replacement for lhc human genOl11t· and about eliminating the need for .1 I It':flr[ by replacing all the cells in the body witl: "vasaloid' systems, lmmorlu] it; IS probably 1I0t in the

cards, Bradbury tells L1~. but once we eliminate a II diseases it will he possible for us to live for 2,O(JU y<.:aTS. When we gel rid of all llrc other h<]:t;lrcls nflivillg, we'll be louki"g at a life Sp<lll of7,000 vears. Unless. of course, we happen to be over 40 years old alrcadv, in which case these technologies will orne too late for u·. Brndbury recommends that those of us pa'I-fO loo], seriously into cryonics Ir \\'1': have om

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heads frozen, we can be, resurrected at some lime in Lilt, future by our benevolent, superintelligent descendants. As Bradbury speaks, I remember Ilht: cemetery .K·WSS &om the Yale University campuli 1111<111 passed 011 my \VlJy to the seminar. Carved into stone on the front gates were the words 'The I)c<1d Shall Be Raised."

I've cnmem Yale lor all intensive introductory seminar on lranshumanism. 'I'he term transhunuin is shortiiaud for lrctrlsitiol1l1i human, a stage along the WilY to becoming }Jost/UlmaN. A posthunuur, according to the \ orld Transhurnanist uclatlon.Js "a being whose basic capacities so rauicall)' exceed those ofpresent-dsy humans <IS 10 110 longer be unambiguously human by om current stan<lards." obody really knows exactly wh:H postlrumanity will be like, hut I ransluuuanists me I.:cl't.iln that it will be a big irnpmvcment over till' current model. Transhumanists.embracc (.'1)'ouics, nanotechnology. cloning, psychopliarIIlil.eology" genetic enhancement artificial intelligence, brain chips, robotics. and colonizalion, J 11 fact, they embrace virtually ;111)' conceivable technology aimed at "reclcsiguing I hcluuuan condition."

J.ib.: IH<llly of my fel.low seminar parlicipants. I'm here out of curiosity. 'Wilal little I know about transluunanism I learned man~ ~'e<1rs ago from Ed Rcgis's brilliant, quirky hook Creal ,\'/dlH/m Chicken (llld tbe Ttansiuuwau Condiuon (P)c)O)' Mml1bo Chicken was an affectionate hI II skeptical portrait of what Regis called "science slightly over the edge." The heroes of MamiJa Chicken were not especially interested in orclill<l'l") scientific grunt work. Thev had much grander plans, They wanted to download their minds 011[0 computer disks. manipulate matter al tlhe atomic level, colonize interstellar comets in private rockets. The title of the book refers to chickens that muscled up to Schwa rxenegger-like propnrl ions <I ftcr gravity specialists :.It the University of Califomia, Davis. SpUIi tJIC111 around in accelerators for six months, 011 the whole, the scientists ill Regis's book were less interested in creating superchickens than ill ne3ting superhumans, They chafed at human mortality and tile limitations of their own brains. "WilY should we be restricted to human nature?" asked

one researcher in Mambo C/,icJum. "Why shouldn't \IfC go beyond?"

Whv indeed? In the 13 ears since A1ambo Chiceen was published. hanshuruanisrn has blossomed into .mmctlling new - part subculture, part academic discipline. part social movement. In ] 998. philosophcrs Nick Bosmrm and David Pearce establishcd tile World 'Iranshurnanist Association (WT'A). Transhumanists have become increasin!!;l}' visible ill the media, often for their 0111, spoken advoc<lcr of all things technological:

I'll a memorable encounter last year, transhumanist M'ax Mun:. co-founder of the Exiropy ln~~tillllc, debated University of Virgmia bioerh icist J onathan Moreno on CNN's Crm.~fire about the ethics of cryonically freezing the head or baseball great Ted \;\Iilliams, The seminar I've enrolled ill at Ya le is part of a larger conference, cosponsored by the ,\n"'A, called TrcIllSl';siOlI200l The theme of the conference is "TIl!:: Ad'lptablc Human Bcdv: Teanshumanismsnd Bioethies in the ZIsr Ccn tury" (I did not attend the larger conFerence, but the presentations arc available online ot lI'u/w.tran.~hu/J1u.l1iwJ,IHg,)

Biecthicists heve begun wril illg abuut soGillet! euhancernen t teehnologics=mcdical interventions aimed not at curing illness but <It j mprovi ng human traits and capacities. For the most part, these interventions fall squarely within Ihe realm of the possihlc:coSI!H,;tit· surgery, synthetic growth hormone for short children, psychoactive medications, such as Rilaliu and and "life~lylc drugs," 'such as Viagru, Propecia, and Botox. hillY t"11- hanccruent technologies are too pedestrian to interest the transhumanists, bllt they make fill exception for genetic medicine-c-the possibilil}' or gl'lIctit::JI1~' enhancing human heillgs. Now Ihal Ille human genome has been mapped and Dully has been cloned, 111,:1Ily lransh umanisls ,1 rc :-;t'lrting to ,15k.. "Why not II~C the tools of genctic~ to snake ourselves smarter, healthier, ,1I1e1 longer-lived?'

At first, I was inclined to dismissthe transhumanists, The), sounded more limn slightly over the edge. Later. J wondered whether I was being l1!1f"ir. \"'cren't remarkable lhil !{;S bcillg done ill neuroscience ::111<1 the genetics of

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a.ging? Didn't lllcm}' or these transhurnanists have impres ive degree. from elite universities? \!Vhile <I Ph.D, is no glli:lrantee of wi dom (as Saul Bellow once remarked, the world is full ofhigh-tQ morons), itdoes have a way of making strange ideas cern somewha t 1111.Qre plausible. The transl.umanism seminar seemed worth the price f ad III is ion, especially when the transhurnanists offer, in the words orVv"l'A cofounder Pearce in his hook The Iledonistic Imperative ... ight s more majestically beautiful, music mnr deeply soul-stirring, sex more exquisitely crnti " mystical epiphanies more awe-inspiring, and love more profoundlv

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who've: never seen them before. "If every physical and chemical invention is a blaspheruy," I aldan wrote, "every biological invention is a perversion."

Most lranslnuuanists are not 'IS eloquent as H •• ldanc, hilt their sentiments are much the same. In lranshurnanist thought, there's llotitiHg natural. and certainly nothing good. about confinement to a flesh-and-blood butl}' llltH expires aFter three score years and tCll.We can do much better than that. lid if we w re not so squearni h, we would do better. Transhumanists believe they II<lVC simpl learned to put aside the onlina ry human

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'l"hi8/J,iece 01 digitall1rt, by I atm;Jw 'ihl-Mnre, d£fJicts a pall(post?)sexllol, LTanRlxMtiml1l(m prototype. It's been featured 011 the Trans/lUmallisl i\rl.~ website fwd is the offi'ci.a,llog() for transhumaui t culture,

intense than anything wecan now properly comprehend." Besides, ] have a weakness for ~oups with manifestoes.

I began to wonder: '~'ho ar the tran - humanists? Fanatics? Visionaries? Trekkie with tenure? Should we be paying attention?

"T' here is 110 great invention. from fire

to fl)'i llg, w h i ell has 110 t been hailed .1), an insult to some godl:' wrote the great Briti: h biologist [, B. '. Haldane in his J 923 essay" Daedalus, or SCD 11 C and the <urure_" For people who see scie: ce CI~ a ".ray of irnprovi mg the human condition, 111c "natural order" is nothing more than a barrier to human progress. As Haldane observed. new developments in biology always look unual ura] and indecent to people

aversion [0 novelty in favor of technologyassisted human progress. Eliazer Yudkowsk)' of the Singularity Institute for rtificial I II tell ig nc =establi heel to hasten the dar when 1 -chnology will create smarter-thanhuurau intelligence in 11\1111<111 beillgs-pnt it ln his paper at Yale, "ln transhumanism, this spccial ' uck' reaction is missing, and such tcchnologie are just an ordiuary part of the 1H111I1';l1 ii n iverse."

Take cryonics, For example, Cryonics firms such <I' the lcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona will reeze the bodies or " 'ads of people who vc been declared dead, in the hope that they can he revived (01" as transhumanists pill it, "reanimated") at some point ill II c distant flltme, when technologic • .]1 progress ha made it po sib] to rc erse the diseases or injuries that "deanimated" them. The f<l~l1C'1" of cryonics was

Auilll1l1l 20(13 15

Transh U Ina II ism

Robert Mtinger, (I professor of physics and mathematics atllighland Park Community College in Michigan and author of the book The Prospect uf/mmortrllit)' (1964). I~Hinger 111,1 rshalcd C!very piece of scien ti fie evidence he could rim] about the prospect of reviving [roxcn bodies, and m<lI1Y readers found the evidence co"vim:ing. Of course. others found the notion of dccp-Ireeziug I'heir severed heads in vats a little grotesque. But defenders of cryonics replied (liot unreasonably) that it was no less grotesque than being embalmed and buried. In <Illy case, the}' were willing to put aside their squeamislsness for the possible payoff. The Prospect ur immort(dif), went through nine eeli I ions aud W<.IS translated into four languages. Ellinger became a ilia jO[ media figmc, <111{] I he cryonics movement was launched.

To many outsiders, 111(' evidence that cryonicswill act ually work has never looked especially convincing. Indeed. cryonics, like other cultural preduets of the 196Us, might well have faded aW~ly-had it not been defended by Eric Drexler in The. i!:ngines of Creati(m (19fl6). H is W'I~ the first book on nanotechnology, the 1.II<lllipulatiun of matter on the smallest possib]e scale, Drexler envisioned suhrnicroscopic devices capable of 'llHUliplllating molecules, or even atoms .. to precise spccificalions. If we could just write the correct programs, nanotechnology would 11110\\ us 10 build or rebu ild virtually anyth i ng, rW111 the bollom up. After all. this is wlral biological organisms do; the programs asc written into their DNA. Drexler devoted a chapter to CXl'hlilling how nanotechnology could make cryonics" kgitimate scientific possibi I ity, V·,Ii I h Ii 11)1 assemblers, we could repair all the cells ill <I deantmated body and bring ~he dead bad lo life.

The El1gilie~ of Crea/iun h,IS been enormously important For transhumanists, and 110 wonder. Raising the dead is only one of she miracles promised by nanotechnology and it's noteven the most astonish ing. Once we have complete control over matter itself, Drexler argued. we COllI do virtually anything permitted by the 1<11\1:'\ or 1ll1IllT~.We can end diisease by repairing damaged cells. Wt: can gel rid or world hunger by making food out

of ple'ltirul ingredients such as dirt and SUIlsliin(;, No more poverty, no more 'II npl casan I labor, no more pollution. Precisely when all llsis will happen is a matter 011 which transhumanists disagree. \Nh'lt's important I:> lhal Drexler made such a persuasive case thalit could h:IPP!;!Il. (It hasn't hurt the cause that nanotcchuology is now being hailed as the I\'Cl\1 Bit; Thillg. attracting venture capital, g(}vcrumcll~ funding, and attention in presligiolls scieutific iournals.)

For 1I1:JIIY transhumanists, nanotechnology is tilt: key to our posthurnan futme. With nanolc:cI'Hology, for instance, we could SC;JI1l the stn 11"'111 rc of uur brai ns atom by atom, preserve all lhc neural patternsresponsible for om personal ielenl itics, aud re-create those structures on artificia] h.m.lware. In effect, we could upload our minds to computers and make copies of ourselves down to every mernorv, e\'cuy bsl. personality <Itli.rl-.. every last hope and prejudice <llId desire. Then we could design new a nd belief bodies, or simply live 011 as infnnnation I><IUCIllS in computer networks, like ghosts in a vast machine,

Once we had uploaded ourselves onto computers, the pn.~.~ibililit;~ woukl expand tremendously. We could make backup copies of ourselves. and re-boot if our original selves were to die. INc could transmit ourselves over high-spced networks at the speed of light (wh ich would Ix' very convenient-the \ r points out, if we colonize space). We could live in snnulated envirenments where the orrli l1a,r~ [aws of physics were suspended. We could mdk-.llly upgrade uur intelligence, like computer sojtware, and become superintelligent. '1-{:.1 I IS Moravec of the :-'lobile Robot Laboratory at Carnegie Mellull University laid 011'1' !'lIe basics of uploading in his book Mind ClIifdrrm (1988). [11 U mere 50 years, Moravec predieted, we'll be able to upload om minds oule ccmputers, turn ourselves into robots. <1I1d 1 ive.: forever.

or course .. not el'eryone 1113) II ant to spend ctcruity this way. It's a matter of individual choice. and teanshumanists insist 011 the universal mora 1 righl to decide for oneself. That's an important pari of llrc WTA's Translunenmist Declaration. But should yuu decide to become "I robot, ;J1l. infol'matioll pattern, or an)' other killd uf sentient life.

16 Wil.'ioiJll Quarterly'

YOll f.:;111 eount 011 the translnmranists 10 advocate for your well-being ..

As l Iake my seat at the seminar. the first Ihing that strikes me is the gap between the grand traushumauist vision and tlrc concrete reality of our snnormdmgs. For al] lhe talk about immortality and superiulclligcnt robots, there's no ~etting around the f~ct that we're sittingin the basement or a college doruntory, On the list of seminar parLicip<mls I see OJ mix uf activists, acadenrics, journalists, and computer specialists. We all seem to be glancing rurtively at one another's name fa~s. trying to figure 0111 which partieipants are the true believers and which arejust voyeurs. Our introduction to lranslnuuauism will be delivered hy Nick Bosrruru, IJrcsident of the Wl'A and a member ofthe phi!o.~oph~· ftlcult) at Oxford Ullivc.;r:sily According 10 the syllabus that's beC'1I dislribured, Bostrlllll'S credentials include a background lin <"oslll.ologr, mathcllmlic'lliogic, and standllp comedy,

My most pressing question is the one r never actuallv ask: Dotranslrumanisrs uclually helieve all thi.:s? Ufc spans of 7,UUO YC<Lrs? I'vI ind uploads? Co1o'1il'.ing space and living forever as robots? As the day WC<lfS 1..111, the answer beCUlIlCS dear. Yes, thc:y duo r had wondered whether these were simply philosophical thought experiments, bul Ihc transhumanists al the front of [he conference room speak or space colon ization a nd radical life exteusion ;,J:'; if the technologies to achieve tll(,:sc were just around the comer. \,\/hell, a few weeks after the seminar. I asked James Hughes, Ihe secretary of the \¥f;\, about the p'I'Hlsibj]i\~ ur these technologics, he replied by CIlW il, "Well, we certainiv do like to talk abcu] them. like philosophers do, but we also ~hink the)' are <11Iil'e real. ViA· differ widely 011 the rime frame. however."

i'vhlyuc so, hut it takes <L certain naivete not to realize that an audience lInfamiliiar wH11 lrnnshnrnanism fI'iglLi he a little surprised by matter-of-fact references to, say, the economic: ccnscquences of becoming a robot I was ('urious to find out whether other 11011- lranshurnanists Ih;lld the same reaction. One

scholar, who spoke 011 condition uf anonymity. cheraclerizcd the transhumanisls ,15 "a lot of YOUllg, pasty. Innkr. awkw;ml ... whitemales lalkillg futuristic b!.lllsllil, terribly worried lhal we will take their to)'~ away." \,\filliam Grey, <I phillmopher from the University of k2ucCIl:.h1ll1d in Allstralia who attended the conference, said, "Overall, I've never seen such a eollection of highly inlclli~enl' people whose views (at least to IlIC) arc jllst barking IIl<uJ."

More than OIlC 011 rsidcr I corresponded with compared the meeting to a support grollp. I was struck more by its religiolls overtones, The transhumanists have their sacred text'S, Tile F.ngines of Creation and 1\,lilld Children among them. Thl·Y have communal guthcriugs, which usu:1H) 'Occur online .. The), have a sci of beliefs nLoL11 resurrection and the a C!erlife. couched ill the language of cryonics and computers. They divide the world into believers and illficlels. (the "bio-Luddiles"), and Ihey (,;<111 on nne another to ('\'1Hlgelize +or, 'IS 111(.:), oOel1 put it. "spread our memes." transluunanists believe that we're appl"O;Jchi'tg lin apocalyptic end-time they call "The Si nglll:Hily," a convergence or technological developments Ul~lI will pusl: the rate of change so dramatically tlt,lI the world could be trausformed 1.K:}'ulld recognition. The \i\q)\ states that irThc Singularitycomes, It will probabl~' be caused hy the creation of self-enhanc'ill~, )upcl'intelligent beings.

I r Ihe relig.iolls elem:llts also sound lik~ ~ci. elite fiction. there s a good reason. I he cunccpt of The Sillgularity comes [rom V(,:rIlOll Vinge's novl·l MCJToolhzd in I{(!allilll€ (I98o).rthur Clarke wrote about Hlil,d uploading in The Cily <mel the Ster«. fir~t published in Jt956. Rohert Ettingcr gol lhe idea for Cf},Olli{':' [rom a stOTY called "The jameson Satellito" by Neil R. JULies, pubI ished in a 1931 issue of the science-fiction 1II<lgazi ne Allw.zing Sume«. In that story a man specifies in his will 11,1311, when he-dies. his body is to be ... hot into space. where it will be frozen ami preserved. M.il1iulls of years later, he's thawed out by robots and givclI a mechanical body so thal be can live forever.

Transhumunists resent the rdigio'ls C011)purisons, unrl. to be Iair, 1.111.1:>1 ofIhose <It the

Autumn 2mn 17

Trans/tuJI11(JII ism

seminar seemed 110 III lure: like cult members than your average rnway rep res ntalivc. lame I [ugh rightly points out that ocial interaction among transhurnanists occur' Illilinly online, and, for that reason, their social ties [0 one <1110111(;[ are a lot weaker Hrau those of church members. In any case, many transhumanists arc openly hostile 10 org"lnized religion. For example, when I a ked Hughes what he thought ofthe Raelians, a sccl that believes the h II man race was crea ted by aliei s, he replied, "Rcl igiuu nut jobs, bul no more or les irrational or absurd than the

braharnic faiths. and a lot less dangerous."

111 my more charitable moments, I want to lh ink that the hall. humanists are old-lashloned utopian .. Maybe Iran humanism r present a high-tech, c bcr- avvy version of Robert Owen's socialist community at New Lll1.1Tk in 19th-cenlury Scotland, or even the rnerican hippie commune of the 19605. Hughes. for example. teaches public policy at Trinity College and is writing a book called Cyborg Democracy: Free, Equal ItHd United in a Po.~t-RurtlQn World, Could the irunshurnarrists be the nip side of the Ami h, putting advanced tc ·llIIology to work for a better societv? I entertain these thoughts for u while, Then reality hits home, and I remember the transh umauists' angry, I iberlarian rhetoric. Mosl ccmed less conceri cd about building a better society than tl ey were about wanting 10 Ill' left alone with their computers.

They also seemed bizarrely out of touch with ordinary moral ensibiliries. This di - connect became apparent during a prescntation hy Robin Hanson, an economist at Ceorge Mason Lluiversity. At one point, Hanson told us about 11 project he had been working 011 for the Pen agon's Defense Advanced Research Projects gcuc ' (DARPA). The plan was to lise the market as a 1001 to predict world events, such asterrcrist .trikes, co lipS. and assassinations, Traders would lise a gover! mcnl- .pon ored web ilc 10 invest money in lhc likelihood that such events would OC-ClIF. and lilt' Pentogorr-; specifically, lhc Total Informafion Awareness project headed by John Poindcxtcr-> would lise the data 35 a 1001 to predict future events, The rationale was that if people were willing to put good money 011 Ille prospect. say,

of Osarna hi n Laden's orchestrati ng ,111 attuck on the World Trade Center. then ti poibility that the attack might oceur should be taken \,ery seriously ,

lt was only n few weeks after the seminar that 1-1 a nson 's pro je:d became headl inc news and was angril, denounced by senators and representatives, who called it "belling on death," The project was eventually scrapped because of the publ ie outcry, and Poi ndextcr re igned his post

What shuck me about the reaction of 'I he lnrnshurnanists to these events wa not. imply that they backed the project. but Ihat they seemed unable 10 grasp why anyone would find it unseemly. Hanson de cribed il without blinking an eye, and then proceedcd to a di cussion of Ihc economic upheaval that might be cau cd by mind uploading. When the public opposition later emerged, Ilie transhurnanisrs , contacted were oddly dismissive. The brouhaha was "non ense," sai<] Hughes, nd Bostrul11 '<lid that he was "very sad to see such a hril liaut and potentially useful idea brutally murdered for cheap political gain:' lie characterized the outrage as "SIIIUg moral condemnation fortified br complete ignorance of the i sue. Our reptilian brain in full action,"




so the question recu rs: Should we he !Jl:Iying attention? I III ink we should. A~ far Mer tile edge as the rransluun • mists often appear, they represent a 11111111>t:r of ideological .1 ,l,IU} , evident throughout American society. One is ~I brand of individualistic, libertarian ideology often associated with Silicon alley, second is independent. quasi-religious rhinking of the .ort that sometimes leads to new religiou communities, such as lhe Mormons, but that more often is d isguised as disda i 11 lowa rd 0 rganized religion, A third is idealistic [<lith in the power of technology to make the world a better place. To look at the rranshumanist movement and its self-identified enemies is to glilll])sC some of the ideological battlegrounds wlrere the debate over new enhancement technologies will be conducted.

One key [ssnc will be the need 1'0 • trike a proper balance between idealism and pr;!g-

Wilson QU(Jrlerl),

Jerry Lcmier.jyreliideuJ llnd CEO on/Ie Ai('()r I.ire Extension Ihrmc/(jtitm ill ScoU.,\xfulc', Ari'::C)JI'a, siamis with r1 group of cl'iell ti'll r1 11 Ie ,f'dlieN I Co rtl Bay, where lhei r bodiC$lllln /11)(1(1.'/ fire kepi ;11 cold-Slorage />1 ml)(!,n!nol1.

matism. Till' ;t:nclic revclution ha:> been a weird cmulriuutiou of media 1:1YIll" ... cicntific suecess. :md clmical disappoinuucut. 'J11at disappcintrueul reached <I culmiuation of sorts scvcrel )l'UI:; a~o with thl" th:alh or [esse Gelsillger ill :1 ~ellc Ihemp~ prolocnl <11 the l.Jni\·crsih or Pcnnsvlvaui». 111 recent It':']i1>. the

. .

federal govcrumcut has tcmpof<1rily shut d01l'11 ft:ucrrllh sponsored research at the Ullin:r:.ily or PCllusylnllli:J. JUllllii llopkins University, Duke Univcrsitv, anrl several other h:Hdilll<; academic 11l";rith 'centers. Ci\'CIlI!I,t, enormous growl!! ill clinical medical research (milch of \.1 hi"h I:. now be,jllg carried out by for.pmrit corporations}, II!;lny observers argue I h'lt our rcglllah,1f\ svstcru must he radk·.llly O\'crhaul'I.:d if We are to avoid murc deaths and iujuric-,

TIll' ~rlrcl)' of research ~lIhil'{:ls is a crucial concern in genetic enhancement and rt:'productive d'}lrill~. Yet the Yale conference did not iuclurle .1 singh: prc;s('utatiol\ on the dilie:> or rq;;:ublil1ll nfhiul1)edk:<l1 rvscarvh.

In lilt: illllOr1l1dmy seminar, Lhe potential dnll;(;'r~, of enhancement tcclmoloaies got sigllifit':lnt attelllion OIII~' once. when Bostrum li.~lcd .1 number of possible threats poscd b) such technologic». among which he included evolution into ublil'inll, "simulatien slnrldown," andiuvasion h) extraterrestrials, The lranshumanist eutlussiasm for scientific research represents all extreme version of the kind of hlcalism lhat will need to be tempered br ;m ('rrcctivc system of n':~I::-I rc' h regula tion.

A second issue will be Ihe; relativevalue ci indl"idmri versus collective solutions In social problems. ~l.anr "eulumcement tech- 110Io~it',," arc more ;lc("lIf<.ILciy eharacterized :I~ IlInliC'al remedies ror social stigma, Tlml iv, Ih.c~ are il"chllologil'al fixc:. (or the condili.on or being ~II:, short. O\'CTl\,t:'i~lrl, or small breasted. 1)\11 these individual solutions 11<1\ll: the paradoxical enb'j of making soda'i problems worse. I\~ Ceorgetown Uni\'crsHy phiioSUllh('1" :\largilrd Olivia I.ittle

."ulumu 200'3 )9

Transb umanisn)

has argllcd, the more breast- augmentations that cosmetic sLlTgeons, perform, lhe more

ntrcnched is the social preference for large breasts; the more "Jewish noses' that surgeons correct, the more reinforced is the social standard that makes [cws seek out smgcr>' in the first place. better solution would be the one that merican individualists oneil regard as, hopeless: Fixing the social struclurcs thO'it make so many people ashamed of these aspects of their identities,

[ven technologies that unambiguously provide e hancements will raise i uc of social justice not unlike those we current] face with ordinary medical technologies (wealthy Americans, for example, get liver transplant, while children in the dev loping world di from diarrhea), We live comfortably with such inequities, in part becan e we have so enthusiastically embraced an individualistic ethic. But to an outsider, a country's expenditure of billions of dollar 0:11 liposuction face-lifts, and Botox injection while many of its children go without basic health care might well seem obscene.

At one point in Oll r seminar, Bostrum listed a number of idcoloaical opponents of transhurnanisrn, including religious conscrvatives, postmodcrnists, the writer-acti, isl [eremy Rifkin.the cnvi run mentalist writer Bill Me ibben the bincthicis! Leon Kass, and the political theorist Francis Fukuyarna. If anyIh ing unites such a eli parate array of people, it's not opposition to technology, Rather, irs a conviction that the ocial order is critically important to hll111.'111 nourishing, Rightleaning moralists do nnl have much in C0111- man with left-leaning moralists; nor do religious conservatives have much in common with postmodernists, Bul none of these peopic belie e that an individual is independent of the society in which he or she lives, and, Ior lhal reason, they're uncomfortable with tile notion that technologies or profound social consequellce should be primarily <l matter of indi irlnal choice. The technologies call tor colle ti C decision making.

A final battleground in the debate over enhanccmcul technologies will he [Itt: marketplace. Whatever you think of the ethics of these technologie .you must admil that they're being driven by a

powerful CCOIlU'lL1ic engine. For a number of year now, pharmaceuticals has been the 1110 t profitable industry in mcrica. Until the early 19805, the most profitable drugs were those to treat anxiety. Nnw, aceording to the National Institute for I-IC<lIIII C~Te Manag mcut, the most profitabl cia s of pre cription drugs is antidepre . ani, uch as Paxil and Prozac. When Pfizer put Viagra om the market ill the late 19905, it immediately became the fastest-selling drug ill pharrnaccutical history, It's. a IOllg way from a xictv drugs and! impotence remedies to genu-line genetic en ha neeme nt, but if the pharmaceutical ::Illd biotechnology industries see a way to profit from a new enhancement technology, it's hard to imagille" that they'll reo i. t.

Is the industries' power a danger?

Whether ),011 think so will depend on what you think of market-driven medicine. Transhumanists are noL worried, but then again, neither i the avemgc rnerican. Cosmetic mrgery has never been HIOTe popular than it IS 110\ • But for critics of genetic enhancement, the market repre ent something far 11110re sinister became il' cents to view the world as a place where everytl: i Ilg has a price. I low will our sensibili tie .. be changed if we start to sec our children, our bodies, and our minds as potential objects of consumption? Where doe the so111 go, once it's been priced and tagged?

J. E. S. Haldane was all enthusiast for scientific progress beca LI 'e;: he thought that sciencewas the servant cf hurnanity. Bertrand Russell disagreed. In "karns," his arnous response to I la I da 11 C' ., Daeda Ius" essay, Russell wrote that the mistake scientists IlS11- ally make is to imagine that they will decide lrow science is used. III fact, he said" cicncc

erve whoever hold' power. If the people who hold power arc evil, then they will lISC science for evil purposes-and Russell was not impressed with the people who held I)ower. "J ;'1111 compelled to ~ iU that scienc will be used to promote tIl power of dominant groups, rather than to make I"CII h~IPPY'," he wrote. "Icarus, h~lving been taught lu n), b)' his father Daedalus, was destroyed hr hi:. ra I mess, I fear thai the same fate may overlake 111(: populations whosu modern men of sci ell ce I rave ta ught to fly."

2 0 Wi ISDH Quurterl,.

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