Is Transhumanism Coercive?

Forcing humanity to remain relatively stupid and sick doesn't make us freer

Berry College political scientist Peter Lawler wants you to be afraid of biotechnology. Very afraid. “We will lose autonomy over our very beings," he warned during our debate concerning the ethics of radical life extension at Wheaton College in Massachusetts last week.

Lawler, a member of President George W. Bush's controversial Council on Bioethics, tried to make the case that using technology to radically extend human lifespans, and boost human intellectual, emotional, and physical capacities, will end in coercion. Those who don’t want to take advantage of the kinds of enhancements that biotechnology, nanotechnology, and cognitive technology will offer, argues Lawler, will ultimately not have a choice about using them.

But is that so? If anyone should be concerned about coercion, it is the transhumanists who rightly fear that bioconservatives like Lawler will try to use the power of the state to halt the research that would lead to the development of enhancements would enable them to improve their life chances and those of their children.

I advocate a liberal tolerant approach: People who reject enhancements for themselves and their progeny are free to do so, whereas those who want to upgrade their mental and physical capacities are also free to do so. Lawler believes, however, that the tolerance I favor must inevitably give way to coercion. What does he mean by “coercion?”

In his presentation at Wheaton College, Lawler offered a couple of examples of enhancement coercion. For his first example, he suggested that certain enhancements might make physicians more intelligent and surgeons more dexterous. Lawler admits that no one is forcing any doctor to use these enhancements. But he wondered, “Who will want to go to a 'bad' doctor?” Lawler thinks it obvious that any reasonable person would prefer to go to a doctor who is better able to diagnose and cure their patients because they have taken advantage of enhancements. The result is that doctors who don’t want to take enhancements will nevertheless be “forced” to do so if they want to continue to practice medicine.

Lawler offered a second example of transhumanist “coercion” in which a moody professor believes that his morose character gives him “clues to who he really is.” The professor cherishes his downbeat personality because he believes that it tells him something important about the truth of the human condition. On the other hand, Lawler grants that the brooding professor is in fact not very productive and students avoid his classes. Meanwhile his colleagues are using safe modern pharmaceuticals to boost their brainpower and their sociability. Again, the pressure to be a productive teacher and a pleasant colleague will “force” the moody professor to take enhancements and his “authentic” insights into the dismal human condition will ebb from his consciousness.

Lawler also warned that parents would be “coerced” into enhancing their children. Again, if safe enhancements for improving minds and health are available, lots of parents would likely want to give these benefits to their children. Lawler argued that if, say, Mormons and Roman Catholics wanted to have babies the old-fashioned, unenhanced way, “we won’t let them do it.” Why not? Because enhanced people would regard “the stupid and disease-ridden Catholic babies as a risk to their own well-being.”

Transhumanist enhancement, on Lawler’s account, thus threatens the “liberty” of doctors to be relatively incompetent, professors to be unproductive, and parents to ensure that their children are comparatively stupid and more likely to suffer disease, disability, and early death. Enabling people to lengthen their healthy lifespans and improve their intellectual capacities, their physical stamina, and their emotional resilience expands rather than contracts their liberty. These are general capacities that anyone would want because they increase the range of their possible life choices. It is rarely the case that being stupid and sick makes one freer.

Rhetorically, Lawler is trying to confuse “coercion” with the social pressure that comes from competition. Coercion is the act of using force or intimidation to obtain compliance against one’s will. Competition involves the rivalry between two or more persons or groups for a desired object or goal. In liberal societies, economic and political competition rather than coercion is used to allocate money, status, and power. It must be admitted that competition can be annoying, especially to those who already have money, status, and power.

In primitive societies, one way self-selecting nobles, warlords, and priests stay on top is to deny potential competitors access to “enhancements” like reading, writing, and arithmetic. But once top-down coercion is lifted and competition is unleashed the race is never done; to stay in the game, everyone must constantly upgrade their skills. The happy side-effect of this competition is that social productivity increases dramatically and people become wealthier, healthier, more educated, and, yes, generally freer.

What about those old-fashioned folks who want to make sure that their children are just like them, naturally stupid and disease-ridden? Lawler suggests that the unenhanced would pose a risk to the enhanced and therefore would be inevitably coerced by government into participating in the transhumanist project. Actually, it seems likely that the unenhanced would present very little risk. After all, they would not be real competitors. With regard to the disease risks that they might pose, the enhanced would already be protected by their augmented health. And the more intelligent enhanced would also be better able to anticipate and counter aggressive acts by the emotionally unstable unenhanced.

During the debate, I suggested that the Amish provided an example of how unenhanced people might dwell among and cooperate peaceably with the majority of people who choose enhancement in the future. Make no mistake about it, the majority will choose safe enhancements. Even a paper, "Age-Retardation: Scientific Possibilities and Moral Challenges," produced for President Bush’s Bioethics Council on which Lawler eventually became a member acknowledged that it is a "reasonable expectation" that "if effective age-retardation technologies become available and relatively inexpensive, the vast majority of us would surely opt to use them, and they would quickly become popular and widely employed." The same rational expectations apply to technologies that will enhance intelligence and physical and emotional resilience.

Lawler retorted that he didn’t want to be consigned to the condition of the Amish. Of course, in order to prevent that, Lawler and other bioconservatives would really have to coerce the rest of humanity into foregoing enhancement. In the end, Lawler defines liberty and autonomy as forcing people to remain naturally sick and stupid—that is absurd on its face.

Disclosure: I want to thank the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for setting up this debate and providing me with travel expenses and an honorarium.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  • rts||

    I've heard this before... "Everyone is buying an iPhone, therefore I'm *forced* to buy one too!".

    It's a strange, strange definition of "force" some people have.

  • Park Ranger, US Forest Service||

    If the typical libertarian abandons his own non-aggression principle when arguing with White Indian, is he any more trustworthy in business contracts?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Alternative question:

    Can you be a libertarian and work for a government agency (other than defense, police, courts)?

    *Considering how large the military is, the crazy laws the police enforce, and the courts uphold, this is somewhat of a hypothetical.

  • Park Ranger, US Forest Service||

    Thanks for playing non sequitur footsie; however, I'm not libertarian, as their religio-economic philosophy is contradictory and defies intellectual integration.

    Now, back to the question you want to blank-out:

    If the typical libertarian abandons his own non-aggression principle when arguing with White Indian, is he any more trustworthy in business contracts?

  • an observer||

    When you pretend not to be white indian as a stupid rhetorical tactic, why are you not just a lying moron?

  • an observer||

    And you know he'll respond, his life is so empty and his mental disorder so serious, that he cannot help but respond despite admitting to being a liar and losing all credibility as a result.

  • an observer||

    And you know he'll respond, his life is so empty and his mental disorder so serious, that he cannot help but respond despite admitting to being a liar and losing all credibility as a result.

  • an observer||

    When you pretend not to be white indian as a stupid rhetorical tactic, why are you not just a lying moron?

  • Park Ranger, US Forest Service||

    It's not a stupid rhetorical tactic. Libertarian liars have given me the private incentive to change my name, because otherwise they start using it, as the lying morons they are.

  • an observer||

    So you're a liar, got it.

    Ps, you totally failed to demonstrate why its not a rhetorical trick, you just said "nu uh" then childish insisted it was someone else's fault you're a liar.

    It is a stupid rhetorical trick. You lose liar.

  • Park Ranger, US Forest Service||

    Wow, I've been bested by third-grade taunts. Run along now.

  • an observer||

    Nice of you to admit you've been bested, a rare bit of lucidity on your part.

    As for the third grade taunts, well, you honestly don't make it too hard to best you, that's really all it takes...

  • an observer||

    And you know he'll respond, his life is so empty and his mental disorder so serious, that he cannot help but respond despite admitting to being a liar and losing all credibility as a result.

  • Park Ranger, US Forest Service||

    You certainly showed me, seriously, run along.

  • ||

    "coercion"
    You keep using that word, I don't think it means what you think it means.

  • ||

    I was wondering the same thing. Telling an imbecile to leave, or kill themselves, on an internet chat board isn't coercion or violence. Saying, I wish this person would die, or I hope someone kills you isn't violence.

    How could a Libertarian violate the non-aggression principle on a message board? They can't.

    Oh, another instance of someone not learning "sticks and stones" as a child. Sad.

  • anon||

    By banning someone from the messageboard, duh.

  • Planet of the Apes||

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • olympics||

    beats us

  • some guy||

    "beats us"

    Oh, yes. It most certainly will.

  • some guy||

    Can't wait till someone breaks the 1 minute mile...

  • Realist||

    That was done in 1899.
    A car named La Jamais Contente was the first vehicle to go over 100 km/h (62 mph). It was an electric vehicle with a light alloy torpedo shaped bodywork, although the high position of the driver and the exposed chassis underneath spoiled much of the aerodynamics. Also, the first electric car to go over 100 km/h.

  • ||

    all the coercion in the world ain't gonna get me to do a mile under one minute...

  • Steve Austin||

    Nothin' to it!

  • Matrix||

    You could equate those with education or any other thing. So, doctors are forced to go through medical school and learn about modern medicine. Why would people want to go to witchdoctors for their healthcare when they can have access to educated and highly skilled medical professionals? Well, in fact, some people DO go to witchdoctors and alternative medicine practitioners. So, I don't really see why it would be any different for "unenhanced" doctors. Sure, they might not get base of patients. But that's the choice they make. Or, you know... they could find another career field.

  • ||

    unless Owebama Care goes down, the line at the witch doctor might be a tad shorter...

  • Tim||

    Man From Fridge: Whenever life gets you down, Mrs Brown,
    And things seem hard or tough, And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft, And you feel like you've just had enough, [The wall crashes down revealing space] Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving, Revolving at 900 miles an hour, It's orbiting at 90 miles a second, So it's reckoned, The Sun that is the source of all our power, The Sun, and you and me, And all the stars that we can see, Are moving at a million miles per day, Of a outer spiral arm, Of 40,000 miles an hour, On this galaxy we call the Milky Way

    Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars, That's 100 billion light years side to side, It bulges in the middle, 60,000 light years thick, But out by us, it's just 3,000 light years wide, We're 30,000 light years from the galactic central point, We go round every 100 million years, And our galaxy is only one of millions and billions, Of our amazing and expanding universe,

    The universe itself keeps expanding and expanding, In all of the directions it can whizz, As fast as it can go, At the speed of light, you know, Twelve million miles a minute, And that's the fastest speed there is, So, remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure, How amazing unlikely of your birth, And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, 'Coz there's bugger all down here on Earth

    Mrs Brown: It feels all so insignificant, doesn't, it?
    Surgeon: Yeah, yeah. Can we have your liver, then?
    Mrs Brown: Yeah, alright, you talked me into it.

  • Realist||

    "Revolving at 900 miles an hour,..."
    Rotating at 900 miles an hour,...

  • Realist||

    "The Sun that is the source of all our power,..."
    Except nuclear which is a product of supernovas.

  • Raston Bot||

    Lawler made no mention of the transhumans from Pandorum? That would've been my Exhibit A in the con category.

  • ||

    I don't think hyper-sleep or the enzymes given to the crew were actually extending life spans, it just created a species that was better adapted to surviving inside a spaceship.

  • ||

    The question occurs, should Lawler opt for intelligence enhancements notwithstanding his current opposition to them. If he does so, either (1) the enhanced Lawler will better understand why his earlier position was flawed or (2) he will be better able to argue the case against enhancements. It seems, therefore, that as a scholar interested in the pursuit of truth, knowledge and understanding Lawler is obligated to opt for enhancements despite himself.

  • ||

    Also, ask him if all of that stuff with Kaufman was really a goof.

  • ||

    Wouldn't he opt for physical enhancements, anyway, to be a better wrestler?

  • ||

    Where do you think Kaufman is right now? I mean, other than pretending to be a black man who got elected president?

    Yes, Kaufman, while suckering America with the Obama goof, is simultaneously using the power of the presidency to have himself, through the use of state-of-the-art genetic and cybernetic engineering, made into the greatest possible cyborg wrestler.

    After achieving this goal, he will, while still in the Obama persona, challenge the Queen of England and/or Angela Merkel to a wrestling match.

  • ||

    "Morbo congratulates our gargantuan cyborg president. May death come quickly to his enemies."

  • Name Nomad||

    Greatest possible INTER-GENDER cyborg wrestler.

  • ||

    To be honest, my money is still on Merkel.

  • Realist||

    Yes.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    An excellent game theory approach DA.

    Ron, your typical concerns/articles are about the government stopping transhumanism stuff but have you examined the other side...the one where the government REQUIRES you to participate? I would be curious to hear some of those arguments. (think "healthcare is a right" and "social security is voluntary")

    As for me I agree with the Let's Roll approach...I want a smart pill so I can stop being unsmart.

  • ||

    We already require people to accept transhuman enhancements - if they want to join the larger group.

    Vaccines before you attend school and even flouridation, while not technically required, is pretty hard to opt out of.

    No tot mention how many times a JW parent is forced to allow their child access to modern medicine or face jail for child abuse.

    This situation isn't new, its just a lot of the stuff we are already doing is old hat and we who accept these technologies don't really understand why someone wouldn't.

    Meaning that in the future we'll deal with those that want to opt out in the same way - establish a minimum baseline of enhancement that will allow safe interaction within the larger group of transhumans, with very little enforcement unless harm actually occurs.

    Its a policy that's worked for a long time and if you really don't want to participate, you'll form your own little group and only interact on the periphery.

    At least until transhumanism gives way to posthumanism and the solar sytem is dimantled and turned into computronium.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    "flouridation, while not technically required, is pretty hard to opt out of."

    "Do you know why I only drink distilled water, captain Mandrake?"

  • ||

    I'd like to be able to say that I was denying women my essence and maintaining my purity, but they don't want it anyway.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    It's all that Pepsi you're drinking, and flouridated "children's icecream." Straight distilled water, General Ripper, distilled water.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Hey!

    Don't forget the pure grain alcohol.

  • Very Strange Love||

    " Feed me Mandrake!"

  • ||

    Oddly enough it wiz(was/is) never dismantled. There wiz no point. It's stilby(still/will be) a popular durational experience node, maybe that's why.

  • White Indian mocks...||

    ...Reason's eugenic program.

  • wef||

    We call it pest control.

  • some guy||

    I though White Indian thanked us for being a sounding board and then said he was leaving a few weeks ago. Was that a different troll or was he just lying?

    I admit I've been away for a while...

  • wef||

    Different troll, I think.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Speaking of White Indian, with the right genetic modifications, a person could survive on dirt, and thus be free to gambol through the plains without worrying about the [Aggie] City-State-Thingy.

  • Park Ranger, US Forest Service||

    Speaking of Herr Doktor Kapitalism, with the right genetic modifications, a person could survive on pulp science fiction fantasies, just like a cockroach, and thus be free of the [Aggie] City-State-Thingy.

    'Cuz nobody taxes cockroaches.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Upgrade them to citizen-grade intelligence and you bet they will!

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    If we're referring to the physical matter of the pulp scifi, probably.

  • an observer||

    When you pretend not to be white indian as a stupid rhetorical tactic, why are you not just a lying moron?

  • Park Ranger, US Forest Service||

    It's not a stupid rhetorical tactic. Libertarian liars have given me the private incentive to change my name, because otherwise they start using it falsely, being the lying morons that they are.

  • an observer||

    So you're a liar, got it.

    Ps, you totally failed to demonstrate why its not a rhetorical trick, you just said "nu uh" then childish insisted it was someone else's fault you're a liar.

    It is a stupid rhetorical trick. You lose liar.

  • an observer||

    And you know he'll respond, his life is so empty and his mental disorder so serious, that he cannot help but respond despite admitting to being a liar and losing all credibility as a result.

  • Soviet Psychiatry||

    mental disorder so serious

    Libertarians do so well at Soviet Psychiatry.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    I'm betting you're also "Coherence" from that thread about California real estate.

  • ||

    For the love of god please stop feeding this troll. He is cluttering up these boards even worse that Tony, Max, or FUCKING Joe which is saying something.

  • Realist||

    "'Cuz nobody taxes cockroaches."
    That's why we have so many of 'em.

  • Brett||

    eugenics is the idea that humans should be enhanced by selective breeding by a top down bureaucracy. Parents using new technology to enhance their children and adults using new technology to enhance themselves will change how humans evolve and allow humans to evolve when our complexity and lack of genetic diversity prohibits biological evolution, but the result is evolution not eugenics.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Insomnium \m/

  • Warty||

    I gave Heritage another try a while ago. Nope, still sucks.

  • Name Nomad||

    Try death growling chicks instead. (2:07 is the best part)

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Wow.

    Stromy seas? Check. Viking ship? Check. Blond chick wearing a cloak? Check. Singing in what is likely a dead language (I may be wrong on this - but I'm not always)? Check.

    Yep. It's Viking Metal.

  • Name Nomad||

    Russian isn't a dead language yet! Also, I think I have a fur-lined chain-mail fetish now because of that video.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I couldn't recognize what was being sung. As a trained linguist, I'm generally pretty good at that, but mixed with Death Metal it's not always easy (especially when there are TONS of metal bands that do sing in dead languages for that extra touch of nerd-dom).

  • Susan Sarandon||

    that song was worse than the pope

  • ||

    Behold, the wonders of You Tube!

    (and make believe, electric guitars in the rain?)

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Me too.

    I've listened to it 15 times or so. The first 3 tracks are pretty good, but then "Slither" both sucks donkey balls AND ruins whatever flow they had going through "I Feel the Darkness". After "Slither" is just a jumbled mess that seems to go on forfuckingever with very few points at which I might say "this is pretty good". The end section of the album starts to get better, but lacks the "epic" quality that Opeth has mastered ("The Great Conjuration", anyone?).

    Overall it's not likely to be played over my stereo.

    In better news, however, the new Insomnium album arrived today (on vinyl!) and I have high hopes for it. I REALLY dig the album immediately previous.

    If you dig MeloDeath, give them a shot.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    That said, I AM going to see Steven Wilson's tour in Orlando. Should be pretty awesome.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Alt text contest:

    "Watch out for the grim reaper when playing Paperboy."

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Berry College political scientist Peter Lawler wants you to be afraid of biotechnology.

    Wow, I wish I, too, could summarize the plot of Gattaca for an audience and get paid for it.

  • Jehu||

    Why can't I help but suspect that a lot of the opposition to such enhancement is based on the desire to continue to enjoy one's high relative position in the distribution of that attribute? E.g. in the current distribution, the professor might be three sigma from the mean in raw intelligence, and probably has a lot of his identity built around his being near '1 in a 1000'. After readily commerically available enhancements, he might be regressed towards the mean :-)

  • CE||

    Unless he's lying on purpose, I'd guess he's closer to one sigma above the mean.

  • Psychic Octopus||

    Even today plenty of parents refuse vaccinations; J Witnesses refuse transfusions... I don't see why more radical "deviations from nature" would necessarily entail coercion anymore than these do. (yes, I know many would like coercion on these cases, but generally speaking it doesn't happen and has been well resisted)

  • ||

    There's no money in telling people the future isn't scary.

  • T||

    Wired hasn't gone broke yet, have they?

  • ||

    They run their share of scare stories. And reverse technophobia, where the Luddites are always lurking behind anything that they don't like.

  • Realist||

    "There's no money in telling people the future isn't scary."
    Yes, see Bailey and AGW.

  • ||

    "burp"
    "Bring me more wine!"

  • Franco||

    Ray Kurzweil?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    This Lawler guy is an irrational, anti-progress luddite death-worshipper straight from an Ayn Rand nightmare.

    At least that was my first impression of they guy.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    And here I was just thinking about how I never preview...

  • Park Ranger, US Forest Service||

    I bet you prefer somebody who wanted to "restart civilization" by eliminating liberal influences in his society and wiping away the parasites.

    Of course, that would be Pol Pot who got it done. Ayn Rand just Jilled-off with Branden's fingers to the same "restart civilization" goals, but collected Social Security instead.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Please.

    I don't excuse Rand for collecting SSI, but the rest of your post is foolish. Rand didn't advocate the use of force, Pol Pot obviously did. Pol Pot was the antiliberal, Rand was the uber(classic)liberal. No more point of comparison than Rand and, oh, say Lenin.

  • Park Ranger, US Forest Service||

    Rand didn't advocate the use of force

    That's what she asserted often, but such a claim can be maintained only by the flimsiest of sophistry.

  • ...||

    And yet, you're an admitted liar so, your opinion on anything is worthless.

    Cry about it more.

  • an observer||

    And you know he'll respond, his life is so empty and his mental disorder so serious, that he cannot help but respond despite admitting to being a liar and losing all credibility as a result.

  • JMW||

    He's a sad, sad little man, that White Indian.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Example, beside the line eliminated from We The Living, which I suspect had something to do with rebelling rather than dictating.

    Or: quotes or you're making it up.

  • CE||

    Lawler suggests that the unenhanced would pose a risk to the enhanced and therefore would be inevitably coerced by government into participating in the transhumanist project... With regard to the disease risks that they might pose, the enhanced would already be protected by their augmented health.

    You're forgetting about ObamaCare. The unenhanced would drive up medical costs for all of us, so we would be forced to upgrade them as well.

    Also, death panels. With world population already at 7 billion, some government panel will have to decide who gets to live forever and who will be deactivated at what age.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Or: space colonies. Gets us some government jobs, too, if you're doing it wrong.

  • Monocled One-Percenter||

    Ho-ho! A jolly good debate chaps! Now, where can one order said transhumanist enhancements? Wouldn't want the common riff-raff to narrow the gap any now, you know?

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Is this pure snark, or an actual question of whether these enhancements would create an enhancement aristocracy?

    I'm a little off my game today.

  • Hate Potion Number Nine||

    I'm surprised it took this long to come up with that question.

    Would these be available at a reasonable price for those who want them or will the enhancements be kept for an elite few.

    I think that it would be (or would be seen to be )in the rational self-interest of an elite few to remain "above" and restrict access to the enhancements.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Speaking of wealth distribution, Mr. 1%, the protesters on Wall Street could increase the portion of the population by promising not to reproduce. Smaller population means more wealth for those who remain.

    Or they could start producing themselves, instead of complaining about those who already do.

  • Definition of Production||

    Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

    Derrick Jensen
    Endgame
    http://www.endgamethebook.org/.....emises.htm

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

    Production, as I define it: rearraging resources under one's control in a manner that improves human life. All movements must be made with the consent of those involved. No human counts as a resource.

    In my view, you're defining slavery, not production.

    Sorry for feeding the troll.

  • ||

    actually, major retailers used to call their Personnel Depts. Human Resources. that was, until the "political correctness" light bulb went off...

  • an observer||

    What does it say about someone that they make up their own definotions in order for their argument to work?

  • Diseases of Agri = "improves?"||

    improves human life

    Then quit fucking shit up with "production."

    Thesis #9: Agriculture is difficult, dangerous and unhealthy.
    Thesis #11: Hierarchy is an unnecessary evil.
    Thesis #21: Civilization makes us sick.
    Thesis #25: Civilization reduces quality of life.
    The Thirty Theses
    by Jason Godesky
    http://rewild.info/anthropik/thirty/

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    The problem is, though, not one of those things is true.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Succintly put. You want to get tuberculosis while starving on twigs in the cold winter, with nothing but a badly-tanned pelt between you and the cold? I thought so.

    It's easy to argue against civilization when you're in your warm home. As someone who's done no more than camp in winter, just a few minutes from heated buildings, with quite a few supplies, I can say that I fully appreciate the value of technology.

  • ||

    +10: for me, "Hell" isn't hot, it is cold. there is nothing worse than being cold, wet without shelter and no means to dry off and get warm...

  • ||

    In Dante's Inferno, the worst part of Hell is cold, wet and there's no way to get dry or warm up.

    You are not alone.

  • ||

    I didn't read the article, just the headline, but the first thing when I thought when I read coercion was that either we would be forced to enhance OR that those who have been enhanced would have an easier time of coercing those who haven't been. I think both of those are valid fears, but not worth getting your panties in a real twist over.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    They wouldn't be an issue in a voluntaryist society. But Mr. Lawler sounds like one hell of a coercionist to me. Despite all his talk about liberty, I suspect that's just a cover for thinking it's perfectly right to force someone.

  • Andrea Shepard||

    That first sentence, 'We will lose autonomy over our very beings," he warned...' contains a very telling ambiguity. The proposition 'we have autonomy over our beings' could be parsed as 'for every person P, P has autonomy over P's being' or as 'for every person P, the collective of all persons has autonomy over P's being'. The fact that this professor Lawler believes transhumanism threatens this makes it clear which intepretation he prefers, and I find that a very frightening one.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    Just more proof that Google and IE are watching you: I'm listening to Elvis in another tab, and now an Elvis link showed up here.

    I'm sure someone can turn this into a CEORCSIONZZZ11!!!!1!!ONE!!!! thread.

  • wayne||

    You listen to Elvis? That dude is dead to me.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    I listen to all sorts of dead people, along with plenty of live ones. Buddy Holly, Frank Sinatra, Beethoven...it's an eclectic mix, but very little is popular presently.

  • Tony||

    Seems like it will begin as keeping up with the Joneses, only in the horrifying context of social stratification and eugenics.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    Yeah, how dare people fucking better themselves.

  • Tony||

    I'm all for it, and don't think it can be stopped. I just hope we're smart enough not to make it the next step in natural selection.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    Agreed.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    We never thought the day would come...

  • Realist||

    "Seems like it will begin as keeping up with the Joneses, only in the horrifying context of social stratification and eugenics."
    Yes, we should all be as dumb as Tony.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Is white dildo a park ranger? Nark fascist pig.

  • WE NEED GOVERNMENT||

    Ayn Rand told me so. Nark Fascist Pig.

  • non||

    Lawler just needs a new perspective. Once enhancements become an option, his decision to forgo them will make him morally superior. And that's the best kind of superior. Just ask the Amish.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    As long as he's not in my face about it...

  • Some Guy||

    For his first example, he suggested that certain enhancements might make physicians more intelligent and surgeons more dexterous. Lawler admits that no one is forcing any doctor to use these enhancements. But he wondered, “Who will want to go to a 'bad' doctor?” Lawler thinks it obvious that any reasonable person would prefer to go to a doctor who is better able to diagnose and cure their patients because they have taken advantage of enhancements. The result is that doctors who don’t want to take enhancements will nevertheless be “forced” to do so if they want to continue to practice medicine.

    And the next thing you know, they'll be "coerced" into going to medical school and keeping up with modern medicine.

  • ||

    Life extension......so I'll get 20 extra years of having to, as Sam Kinison once said, having to ask someone to help me change my sack.

  • ||

    Peter Lawler is so goddamn retarded I unsubscribed from the entire RSS feed for bigthink.com just because I was sick of seeing his mental diarrhea appear in my google reader.

  • ||

    Same here (not just lawler but quite a number of thuggish knuckle-dragging "thinkers" who, upon incompetently defining a known societal problem, jump straight toward the conclusion of "and that's why the government needs more power"). Sad, bigthink could have been fun.

  • ||

    Well said. I think the only appropriate concerns with bioenhancement are the ones we already use in medicine: Is it (relatively) safe? What are potential (unwanted) side effects? What can be done about criminal misuse?

  • Baal||

    The joking reference above to posthumanism is a legitimate concern.
    We can't meaningfully speculate about what kinds of actions posthuman entities will take any more than our pets can interpret our actions. Even advocates for transhumanism worry about this, in the context of doing what we can to ensure a positive outcome. Of course, the definition of 'positive outcome' varies.

  • Madison Ruppert||

    The author of this article should really investigate Ray Kurzweil and his ilk of transhumanists. You should definitely check out "Transcendent Man" if you want to see the dark side to transhumanism, including a man who believes it is okay if billions die in the approach to and aftermath of the "singularity" or "when humans transcend biology" as Kurzweil says.

    Many will die and most of these transhumanists think that is just fine.

    I'm not sure I'm sold on that aspect of it. I don't know about you but massive population extinction, likely willful, just isn't my thing.

  • ||

    It wiz just fine. They get brought back--those that want it anyway(those that don't are replaced with simulacra when needed[but the 'simulacra are just aspects of themselves from a durational area in which they're not such asses]).

    When 'death' is just a repeatable volitional experience, the 'deaths' of billions are unimportant.

  • ||

    Ethics has nothing to say about that which is inevitable. Kurzweil and others assume that mass death is inevitable thanks to the assumed impossibility of sustaining such a large human population indefinitely; therefore "many people will die" is not "good" or "bad", it's just a fact, the same as "the sky is blue" is not a moral statement. FWIW I seriously doubt this is the case.

  • Luffchylde||

    The author seems to be taking many things out of context here. Many "safe" procedures are unsafe. A member of my family died having her stomach stapled. My father, taking "safe" drugs for depression, started having suicidal thoughts (thankfully he quit taking them). All of your "safe procedures/drugs have risks, and many side-effects that are far worse than the initial ailment. My brother-in-law had shoulder and neck surgery for chronic pain, which has left him disabled and in more pain than before.
    Assuming that being un-enhanced will leave you sick and stupid is ridiculous.

  • Realist||

    "I advocate a liberal tolerant approach: People who reject enhancements for themselves and their progeny are free to do so, whereas those who want to upgrade their mental and physical capacities are also free to do so."
    Yes!

  • ||

    It is shocking to me that we have an "enhancement" article and nobody has "brought up" the ginormous penis question.
    Wood the male poplulation, in a "peter principle" action, actually get bigger penises to impress other males instead of increase pleasure to females?
    Most males are envious of my gigantic member, while most females are terrified - it is a cross I bear....

  • Realist||

    "Most males are envious of my gigantic member, while most females are terrified - it is a cross I bear...."
    Your member is in the middle......minipecker....that's your left leg!

  • ||

    Oh, on the 'stupid' front. There's nothing that's gonna boost IQs(sorry). Enhancements generally come as access to additional resources(like teh intertubers) via brain interface--at least until 'after' the >evolutionary< problem wiz worked out. Then IQ doesn't matter.

  • ||

    non|10.18.11 @ 9:54PM|#
    "Lawler just needs a new perspective. Once enhancements become an option, his decision to forgo them will make him morally superior. And that's the best kind of superior. Just ask the Amish."

    Yes Let's ask the Amish...
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10.....gewanted=1

  • ||

    Since the default human condition is greed stupidity delfu=ishness and violence, it is hard to see why enhancement would noty be beneficial. AND if competition drove the Bush types into extinction so much the better for humanity. I don't care if you call it genocide, I think it's a wonderful idea!

  • DDavis||

    "Those who don’t want to take advantage of the kinds of enhancements that biotechnology, nanotechnology, and cognitive technology will offer, argues Lawler, will ultimately not have a choice about using them."

    Therefore those who do want to use them should have their choices taken away from them. Coercion Now!

  • bottes ugg nightfall||

    bear

  • Linda M Glenn||

    Ron, could you please make a distinction between transhumanism and Humanity Plus? The term 'transhumanism' suggests enhancing one's physical and mental image of one's individual self and feeding the ego; while Humanity Plus suggests enhancing the human condition, elevating all.

  • ||

    I really do understand the concern (I'm an avid transhumanist myself, but I get why it frightens people). However, when one leaps from "this may result in people being forced to adopt it against their will" to "therefore we must force people to not adopt it before it's too late" I confess I get a bit flabberghasted. What? Are you retarded? You just justified initiating force through fear of initiating force, you idiot. Yes, idiot, no need to sugar coat this: if you make this argument, you. Are. An. Idiot.

    Now as to the concerns, the biggest one is that people with the means will be able to radically accelerate themselves beyond the capacity of people without, in an exponential fashion, such that if you start with a few enhancements those will enable you to vastly outperform those without; and by applying that capital, you will be able to afford more enhancements, which will again vastly increase your performance, ad nauseam, and nobody who gets a later start will ever catch up (such is the behavior of exponential curves). But that's purely speculative. A more moderate, likely scenario is that minor enhancements will grant commensurate minor increases in personal capital, such that acceleration will be linear or even logarithmic (i.e. the more you spend the less bang for the buck, same as with most other high technology).

    Maybe in some distant future, a long, long time from now, when extreme transhuman transformation is the norm and there are hardly any "baselines" left the remainder will feel strongly urged to jump on the bandwagon; but OTOH there are still people living the same primitive hunter-gatherer lifestyles our ancestors did 10,000 years ago, entirely by choice, and nobody is browbeating them about it. Or rather, the only people who have ever dared to browbeat primitives about this choice are those who claim to govern them. As for those somewhere in the middle of the technological spectrum, the general case is that voluntary organizations (private business) fall over themselves to serve cultural niches who, for one reason or other, don't participate in the majority lifestyle, while simultaneously trying to entice them into the mainstream. This seems to me like the ideal path, and the one a wise person would prefer - not the path where the cultural/political elite decide what we're all "ready" for and hold back the rest.

    Not that they can stop us. What's that old saying, when human augmentation becomes illegal only criminals will be augmented? :)

  • ||

    This article demonstrates what I have often thought: that bioconservatives are mean spirited reactionaries who hypocritically twist language to help their poor arguments thus adding hypocrisy to the charge sheet.

  • Timothy17||

    This is Nazism.

    You people are completely insane if you think you can propagate such vicious slander of the entire human race without their being serious consequences. We all know what happened when but one race was singled out for such abusive slander. What on earth do you think the consequences will be when you expand such slander to encompass the whole of humanity?

    This "Transhumanism" is a declaration of war on the human race.

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