Controlling our Bodies - World Transhumanist Association

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Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Controlling our Bodies

James J. Hughes Ph.D.

Secretary, World Transhumanist Association

Public Policy Studies,

Trinity College, Hartford CT


Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Starting Point: Basic Human Rights


Liberal democracy


Self
-
ownership and self
-
determination


Control of our bodies
and brains


Reproductive rights and
sexual freedom

John Locke

1632
-
1704

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Grounds for Restricting Liberty


Strong: Stop people from harming others


Weaker: Stop people from harming
themselves


At least until their choices are free and fully
informed


Weakest: Moral distaste, religious
objections, vague anxieties about the
future

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003


Technology frees us from the

tyranny of Nature


Hunger, sickness, aging, death


We’ll never control everything,


but…

May we have the strength to change what we can,

the serenity to accept what we can’t change, and

the wisdom to know the difference

(Reinhold Neibuhr)

Freedom through Technology

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cells


Embryonic stem cell cloning for
therapeutic purposes should be legal
and publicly funded


Reproductive cloning should be legal
once it is demonstrated safe in animals


In the scheme of things, however,
embryonic stem cells and cloning are
technical and moral side shows


Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Emergent Technologies

Technologies that will radically change
human life:


Psychopharmacology


Genetic engineering


Nanotechnology


Artificial intelligence


Cognitive science


The convergence of all these

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Human Genetic Engineering

Technologies that will fundamentally transform
human life


Corrective somatic engineering


Correcting disease
-
causing genes


Genetic enhancement


Making someone smarter, healthier, loner lived,
than they otherwise would be


Adding aesthetic or novel characteristics


Germline engineering


The manipulation of the genomes of sperm, eggs or
early embryos, in ways which are inheritable

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Nanotechnology


Dramatic progress in recent years


Nanodevices and nanorobots


Universal assembler


Nanotech in the body, supplementing
immune system


Nanotech in the brain


Foresight Institute
:
http://www.foresight.org


Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

To What Ends?


Avoiding disabilities


Health


Longevity


Intelligence


Aesthetic preferences


Spiritual goals


Ensuring the best for our kids

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

21
st

Century BioPolitics


Transhumanists

versus bioLuddites



BioLuddites:


Religious Right


Deep Ecologists


Left
-
wing and Feminist Critics of Biotech

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

BioLuddite Books


Aldous Huxley

Brave New World


Leon Kass 2002
Life, Liberty
and the Defense of Dignity


Francis Fukuyama 2002

Our Posthuman Future


Bill McKibben 2003

Enough

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

What is Transhumanism?

An intellectual and cultural
movement

that affirms the
possibility and desirability of
fundamentally altering the human
condition through applied reason,
especially by using technology to
eliminate aging and greatly enhance
human intellectual, physical, and
psychological capacities.

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Early Transhumanists


HG Wells


addressed the future evolution of humanity


JBS Haldane, 1923, "Daedalus: Science and the Future"


JD Bernal, 1929, "The World, the Flesh and the Devil”


Olaf Stapledon’s 1931
Last and First Men


Julian Huxley, 1957, coined term "Transhumanism“
-

"the
human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself."


“FM
-
2030” (FM Esfandiary) popularized term
“transhumanism”

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

The Goal of Transhumanism


A world society that allows individuals to choose to use
technology to live


Longer


Happier


Smarter


With more control over their lives


To ensure that those technologies are safe and
universally accessible


A transhuman democracy where humans and
posthumans can peacefully coexist

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Transhuman and Posthuman


What is a
transhuman
?


A 'transitional human‘ becoming posthuman
(glasses? Insulin?)


What is a
posthuman
?


How different does someone have to be
before they are post
-
human?


Who cares if they are post
-
human?

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Possible Modes of Being

accessible by humans

accessible by transhumans


accessible by animals

accessible by posthumans

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Current Transhumanists


World Transhumanist Association

www.transhumanism.org

Transhumanist Declaration & FAQ


Bioethicists like Greg Stock, 2002
Redesigning Humans


Computer scientists like

Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec



WTA Chair

Dr. Nick Bostrom

Oxford University

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

What Transhumanism is
Not

Transhumanism is


Not racial eugenics


Transhumanist organizations are categorically
opposed to pseudoscience, racism and
authoritarianism


Not a religious movement or cult


Most transhumanists are non
-
theistic, but
transhumanism is compatible with various forms of
humanistic religious belief


Not a political movement


Transhumanists range across the entire spectrum
of political views, although they tend to strongly
defend civil liberties


Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Central Biopolitical Disputes

Transhumanists

BioLuddites

Personhood

Human
-
Racism

Humanism

Sacred taboos

Individual liberty

Bans, yuck factor

Risks are manageable

Tech should be banned

Trust parents

Assume parents are bad

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Personhood vs. Human
-
racism


Spiritual beliefs about the soul


Crypto
-
spiritual references to

“human dignity”


Personhood:


“conscious beings, aware of themselves, with intents and
purposes over time”


You can be human and not persons,

and persons and not human


Status of the embryos, the brain
-
dead, animals,
genetically altered humans

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Humanism


18
th

century

rationalism and skepticism


Dignity and worth of humanity


Our capacity for self
-
realization

through reason, without supernatural assistance


Humanism not atheism: there are religious humanists
in every tradition


Transhumanists are humanists who emphasize what
we have the potential to become.

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Humanism vs. Sacred Limits


Playing God: antibiotics,
IVF, organ transplants?


Human intervention will
always end in disaster


Nature is too
complicated to ever
understand


Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Ensuring Safety, or Stopping Hubris


Precautionary Principle:

Do
unknown risks warrant indefinite bans?


FDA not God Squad:

FDA has
authority to ensure safety, but not
theological correctness

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Ensuring Safety of Technology


How do we research potential risks to
offspring?


Animal research


shows cloning is not yet
safe


Increasingly predictive computer modeling


Human trials on people who are very sick


Eventually, by approving general use and
monitoring for adverse events

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Trusting Parents


What is eugenics?


Wanting healthy children? Or


Telling people what reproductive
decisions they can and can’t make?



Who is the good parent?


Alleged instrumental approaches and
bad intentions of would be parents


Research shows ART parents are
better parents than natural parents


Trust parents, but punish bad ones

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Closing Thoughts


Human genetic engineering will be a part of
our future and will
eventually

help provide
our children long healthy lives in a
prosperous world


We have a lot of work to do to improve the
world whether we have human genetic
engineering or not

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Technology is not the problem



Greed, racism, class inequality, poverty, gender
oppression, authoritarianism, fear and superstition

are the problems


So long as we defend individual rights to technology,
we make the world freer


Free and dully informed choices require strong
regulation for safety, but not for hubris (national and
global safety regulation)

Copyright World Transhumanist Association 2003

Universal Access

Expand universal access

National health insurance to cover genetic
engineering

Direct research to needs of developing
world


malaria vaccines, cheap immune
tweaks, appropriate nanotech