Fancy New Name, Same Old Problem

I'm not picking on T-Steel, who posts over at The Moderate Voice. I just happen to have taken exception to a couple of his posts in the past few days when I saw them pop up on Memeorandum. Today he has a post about the "Transhumanism Movement" that bugs me a little.

From Wikipedia:

Transhumanism (sometimes symbolized by >H or H+) is an international intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and ameliorate what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as stupidity, suffering, disease, aging and involuntary death. Transhumanist thinkers study the possibilities and consequences of developing and using human enhancement techniques and other emerging technologies for these purposes. Possible dangers, as well as benefits, of powerful new technologies that might radically change the conditions of human life are also of concern to the transhumanist movement.

Excellent description of the aspect of futuristics, or future studies, that deeply interests me. Call me a transhumanism apprentice. Transhumanism clashes with religion at many levels since many transhumanists are atheists. Personally I’m more of a secular spiritualist and agnostic. But I never beat people up about their religious beliefs. It is counterproductive to the nth degree. But I digress.

There really is nothing new about this. This is just a slightly different take on eugenics. In even shorter terms it can be labeled 'playing God'. The problem, of course, is who decides what is good and what is bad? What traits do you select for and enhance and what ones to you suppress or eliminate? And how do you eliminate the "bad" traits after you select them. Do you kill those with undesirable traits. Do you sterilize those who carry the traits? You can see why eugenics has gotten a bit of a bad name, especially since the Nazis flirted with it.

My doctor once told me that high triglycerides were associated with people from countries that had a historical "feast or famine" cycle. At one time it was a desirable trait because it enabled people to get through the lean times. Now, with more secure food sources, it is not so good to have. (I do not know for sure that's the case, BTW. I did find a couple of papers that seem to bear that out.) So, what if you selectively eliminate a trait that would be beneficial under certain conditions without realizing that it did actually have such a function. Who decides?

What if you select for certain traits, then find out down the road that some combinations are lethal in the long term? What if you inadvertently eliminate something, like the ability to make music?

Playing God isn't really all that easy, is it?

(The Wikipedia entry on Transhumanism lists a lot arguments that have been raised about it, BTW. They also note that transhumanists have renamed eugenics as "reprogenics". New name, same, old goals.)

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2 Responses to Fancy New Name, Same Old Problem

  1. T-Steel says:

    I loved being picked on. LOL!

    I’ve been a several transhumanist conferences where some want us to strive for immortality and others (like me) see limits. I think it is a fascinating topic. As an agnostic that respects religion, I have to see limits. Humanity becoming, for example, an incorporeal being that lives forever (by our creation), scares the mess out of me.

  2. Gaius says:

    There are some things that I think they have right – the re-engineering of humans is not one of them. I have serious ethical reservations about that sort of thing.

    And I sure don’t want others deciding what is best for me!

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