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Ronald Bailey Argues for Transhumanism at the Washington Post

My fellow Americans should not get to vote on what enhancements I might want

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TranshumanismBioethicscom
bioethics.com

"Technology Won't Undermine Human Dignity: Fear of Change Will," is my contribution to the Washington Post's In Theory symposium on transhumanism. In that column, I argue against opponents that the decisions to use life-enhancing bio-, nano- and infotech should be left to individuals, not decided by majority vote. From the column: 

The prospect of technologically enhanced humans flourishing makes some people uncomfortable. The "bioconservative" alliance of moralizing neoconservatives and egalitarian left-wingers fears that the new bio-, nano-, and info-technologies threaten human dignity and human equality, but these egalitarian worries are overblown — and, in fact, they go against the liberal society that transhumanism's opponents revere.

The highest expression of human nature and dignity is to strive to overcome the limitations imposed on us by our genes, our evolution and our environment. Future generations will look back at the beginning of the 21st century and be astonished that some well-meaning and intelligent people actually wanted to stop bio-nano-infotech research and deployment just to protect their cramped and limited vision of human nature. If transhumanism is allowed to progress, I predict that our descendants will look back and thank us for making their world of longer, healthier and abler lives possible.

Other participants in the symposium include:

Founder of Yale Students and Scholars for the Study of Transhumanism David Vincent Kimel, "In Defense of Transhumanism."

In our future, daily life will be transformed through the increasing automation of labor and the rise in sophistication of artificial intelligence. Life may be less about the 9-to-5 grind and more about education, community and the creation and enjoyment of art. Rather than imagining a future in which humans and machines are at odds — as many thinkers have predicted — transhumanists look forward to the advent of cyborgs, in which computers are incorporated into the brain itself, leading to radically enhanced processing power and the ability to preserve consciousness for lengths of time now deemed inconceivable. The ultimate lesson from transhumanism's origins in science fiction is perhaps to seek those inventions that would radically enhance lifespans and empower the human imagination to control what it experiences in ways hitherto unimaginable, liberated from the genetic and circumstantial wheel of fortune.

Executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies James J. Hughes, "Soon We Will Use Science to Make People More Moral."

Drugs, devices and gene therapies will soon allow us to safely suppress our appetites with a level of control only seen in ascetics and achieve transcendent states previously only accessible to yogis. Addictions will be treatable with implants, vaccines and therapies that enable the brain to unlearn dependencies. Psychedelic drug studies and brain imaging of meditators are suggesting ways to turn off neurotic self-absorption and tune into oneness and awe.

Duquesne University political philosopher Charles T. Rubin, "Transhumanists Are Searching for a Dystopian Future."

With great power ought to come great responsibility. The libertarian strain that is so powerful among transhumanists makes them imagine that such responsibility need be exercised only by individuals making choices about how to modify themselves or their children. What popular culture imagines is that transhumanist promises are being made by flawed human beings to flawed human beings, and that as a result the consequences of their decisions will likely have a broader reach than they anticipate. As a result, the great powers that transhumanism promises are likely to be used not in ways that will solve human problems, but in ways that will perpetuate them yet more terribly.

Washington Post In Theory editor Christine Emba offers a primer on transhumanism for the bewildered, "Will Technology Allow Us to Transcend the Human Condition."

Transhumanism, in its most extreme manifestation, is reflective of an increasingly pervasive and influential school of thought: that all problems can and should be solved with the right combination of invention, entrepreneurship and resource allocation.

For more background see my article, "The Case for Enhancing People."

NEXT: Maryland Reforms Asset Forfeiture, Mandatory Minimums

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  1. Phew, I thought this was going to be about Ron demanding to use 3 bathrooms simultaneously.

    1. That’s an optional added feature to the excretory refinement suite.

      1. excretory refinement suite

        Nice album name.

    2. Great first comment.

    3. Thread over

  2. Good article, Ron. 100% agree.

    Duquesne University political philosopher Charles T. Rubin, “Transhumanists Are Searching for a Dystopian Future.”

    The luddites, malthusians, and other naysayers and doomsayers will always dwell among us. Perhaps when we have the source code, we can just delete them.

    1. Agreed. Bailey is best when arguing for individual choice. This is an excellent article.

    2. Drugs, devices and gene therapies will soon allow us to safely suppress our appetites with a level of control only seen in ascetics and achieve transcendent states previously only accessible to yogis. Addictions will be treatable with implants, vaccines and therapies that enable the brain to unlearn dependencies. Psychedelic drug studies and brain imaging of meditators are suggesting ways to turn off neurotic self-absorption and tune into oneness and awe.

      If this is what the “transhumanism needs our enlightened regulation” folks think then forget the source code and start the woodchippers.

      Soon We Will Use Science to Make People More Moral

      Hughes really needs to watch Serenity.

      1. You don’t want to become a Reaver?

        1. Do they have a dental plan?

      2. Soon We Will Use Science to Make People More Moral

        Hughes really needs to watch Serenity.

        Yeah, that line surprised me. “Make people more moral.” Wait until the politicians and bureaucrats make this mandatory. Think Equilibrium too. It’s the not the technology I’m afraid of, it’s the government control of it.

        1. Well:

          Executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

          Moral means be good little sheep, your leaders know best.

  3. Who should I for Judge of the California Superior Court for San Diego County Office No. 25?

  4. I believe the goal of Humanity is to ascend to a higher level…but I think it can be done many different ways. I like to think we are already heading in the right direction using evolution. Utilizing machines might be limiting our growth instead of expanding it or it could be helpful, I don’t know. See smartphone usage for examples.

    1. Utilizing machines might be limiting our growth instead of expanding it

      No. Humankind is now a technological create and our future evolution will be all technology driven. Or the politicians and bureaucrats win and a slow downward spiral starting with idiocracy and ultimately a devolvement back into hairless monkeys grubbing up roots for survival.

    2. How are smart phones limiting our growth? I learn tons by having a random question pop in my head and then instantly getting the answer. My driving routes are more efficient having maps with traffic alerts. Always having a calendar on me is great for planning future engagements. Clearer communication. Emails. Texts. Video chat. I think smart phones are one of the greatest tools ever invented.

      1. Video chat.

        I call BS, nobody has a data plan that can survive being a regular user of video chat.

        1. I have unlimited data and wifi in my house.

          1. spoilsport.

            The next joke was going to be that a floridian video chat is just an empty frame you hold up between yourself and the person you’re talking to.

      2. Smart phones are the first incarnation of artificial intelligence – not in the sense that they are separate, conscious, created beings, but in the sense that they are intelligence prostheses.

        1. You know who else had an intelligent prosthesis?

          1. Cable?

    3. I didn’t know Humanity has a goal. But individuals can do whatever they want, so long as they don’t hurt or steal from others.

  5. ways to turn off neurotic self-absorption and tune into oneness and awe.

    Talk like that is gonna creep a lot of people out.

    Better say something like “ways to be less selfish” or “ways to get right with God”.

    1. If it’s voluntary, I don’t care what you call it.

  6. Anyone who is a futurist, transhumanist, or other sort of techo geek should check out the site Singularityhub.com. My 2nd favorite website. Shame it’s been slightly overrun with climate change wackos so much that too many articles has to find some way to twist any story to include something about climate change. They could use Ron over there.

    1. I thought you said it had too many climate change wackos? Why would they need Ron?

      1. I don’t consider Ron to be any sort of wacko at all, he’s been very reasonable on the issue. Even if man made warming is real, I’ve never heard Ron advocate for any types of statist. rights killing, economy killing solutions to it. He’s also not an alarmist. That’s why I say they need him as a voice of reason on the issue.

  7. You just don’t know where to get your science from.

    Zaraska wrote Meathooked primarily to discover why humans across the world crave meat. Factors of biology, including certain genetic predispositions and culture, ranging from family habits and cultural traditions to the sexual politics of meat as explained by Carol J. Adams, all play a role, she says.

    Here’s an experiment – shove a pork chop, an apple, and a Hotwheels car down your gullet and see how they come out your other end. If you can readily identify it as the same thing that went down your gullet, it means your body didn’t recognize it as food. If it comes out as a turd, it means your body recognized it as food. I’d suggest that’s a role in why humans crave meat our author may have missed.

    1. the sexual politics of meat

      Band name claimed

      1. Not an album title? The Sexual Politics of Meat, feat. Carol J. Adams just sounds like an album title. Maybe a biography of Michael Aday..

        1. Should that be Marvin Aday?

    2. On a more serious note, it’s this type of utter bullshit that drives me nuts. Humans are omnivores.

    3. “Here’s an experiment – shove a pork chop, an apple, and a Hotwheels car down your gullet and see how they come out your other end.”

      Stand by..

  8. There’s an excellently written fictional book by Ramez Naam- called Nexus- that has a lot of the philosophical issues surrounding transhumanism along with being an interesting read. Recommend it.

    1. RAOK: See my review, Posthuman Page Turner. Loved my buddy Ramez’ trilogy!

  9. Executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies James J. Hughes, “Soon We Will Use Science to Make People More Moral.”

    Anyone who says this in the context of transhumanism is exactly the sort of person who shouldn’t be trusted to pioneer it. Shit, Ron, with this sort of quote maybe the problem with your buddies in the transhumanist movement isn’t that they’re too libertarian, but that they’re not libertarian enough. This is particularly the case when one considers that virtually all transhumanist “enhancements” will have to be applied at birth, at which point the individual is hardly empowered to make decisions but is rather forced to be whatever parents and the state force him to be from birth onwards.

  10. My fellow Americans should not get to vote on what enhancements I might want.

    Can we at least give you some friendly advice? Request a brain transplant. Preferably one with less gullibility and better critical thinking skills.

    1. TOTALLY PWNED!

      WE ARE NOT WORTHY! WE ARE NOT WORTHY!

    2. DD: Ouch! Enjoy your weekend.

      1. Spoiler alert: Mike M’s angry little brain doesn’t have the capacity to enjoy ANYTHING.

        1. I really wanted to got watch roller derby Sunday, but I have to go to a stupid “friend dinner” and socialize.
          /pout

      2. Thanks! I just hope it warms up one of these days, as the summer solstice is only a month away.

    3. You left out the shitty nickname, Broseph Stalin. Here’s one you can try: PR0n Failey. You’re welcome!

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