Tag: cyborgs

Bioethics Blogs

Reproducing the Speculative: Reproductive Technology, Education, and Science Fiction by Kaitlyn Sherman

Walter, a Synthetic, quietly makes his rounds in the brightly lit, pristine interior of the Covenant, a Weyland Corporation Spaceship. Fingers pressed to the translucent, impermeable glass, he checks the status of each crew member as they rest in their cryochambers, suspended in chemically-induced comas until they reach their destined planet in seven years and four months’ time. The ship’s artificial intelligence system, Mother, chimes, “Seven bells and all is well.” Reassured of their security, Walter moves on to the next zone, where another 2,000 cryochambers contain sleeping colonists from Earth. This zone also features a panel of drawers, each housing dozens of embryos—over 1,100 second-generation colonists. They are packed individually into river-stone sized ovoids; clear, solid, egg-like. Amid the rows, an embryo has died, and its artificial uterine-sack is clouded and dark. Observing it briefly, Walter takes it from its socket with a set of tongs and places it into a biohazard bin. The Covenant is on a mission to colonize a habitable, distant planet. Their ship contains everything that could be useful in setting up a new colony: terraforming vehicles, construction materials, and human life itself. Even though these frozen embryos aren’t yet actively developing, they reflect a technology that allows for such a feat, while ensuring a population boom that is not dependent upon the limited space of mature female colonists’ wombs.

This scene is part of the opening sequence of the latest film in Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise. Alien: Covenant (2017) is the most recent science fiction film to illustrate advances in reproductive technologies, especially that of ectogenesis, or external gestation and birth.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Neuroethics Blog Series on Black Mirror: The Entire History of You

By Somnath Das
Somnath Das recently graduated from Emory University where he majored in Neuroscience and Chemistry. He will be attending medical school at Thomas Jefferson University starting in the Fall of 2017. The son of two Indian immigrants, he developed an interest in healthcare after observing how his extended family sought help from India’s healthcare system to seek relief from chronic illnesses. Somnath’s interest in medicine currently focuses on understanding the social construction of health and healthcare delivery. Studying Neuroethics has allowed him to combine his love for neuroscience, his interest in medicine, and his wish to help others into a multidisciplinary, rewarding practice of scholarship which to this day enriches how he views both developing neurotechnologies and the world around him. 
Humans in the 21st century have an intimate relationship with technology. Much of our lives are spent being informed and entertained by screens. Technological advancements in science and medicine have helped and healed in ways we previously couldn’t dream of. But what unanticipated consequences may be lurking behind our rapid expansion into new technological territory? This question is continually being explored in the British sci-fi TV series Black Mirror, which provides a glimpse into the not-so-distant future and warns us to be mindful of how we treat our technology and how it can affect us in return. This piece is part of a series of posts that will discuss ethical issues surrounding neuro-technologies featured in the show and will compare how similar technologies are impacting us in the real world. 

*SPOILER ALERT* – The following contains plot spoilers for the Netflix television series Black Mirror.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Is it ethical to refuse a patient surgery for body art?

The “bioartist” Stelarc has an ear surgically implanted on his forearm. Like him, a number of other people have hacked their own bodies with implants and prostheses. With growing interest in transhumanism, more and more people are likely to request enhancements to turn them into cyborgs.

Many doctors are unwilling to modify bodies for artistic, political or whimsical reasons. Stelarc complains that it took him ten years to find a willing surgeon. Is it ethical for a doctor to refuse? This is the question tackled by Francesca Minerva in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

First, she assumes that the procedure would be relatively safe from a medical point of view. The doctor she has in mind would refuse because the reasons for the request conflicted with his own values. She groups the objection under four headings and dismisses all of them:

The intervention violates the goals of medicine. This means that the doctor is imposing his own view of what constitutes good medicine upon the patient, even though the patient believes that he will benefit from the procedure. This violates the patient’s autonomy.

The benefits do not outweigh the risks. The doctor is imposing his own understanding of benefits upon the patient, who understands better than the doctor what is in his best interest.

The surgery promotes opposing moral values. But, as in the often-discussed cases of abortion and euthanasia, doctors are not entitled to impose their moral views upon patients. Minerva cites the hypothetical case of a feminist who wants to subvert conventional norms of beauty by “uglifying” herself.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Web Roundup: If it Ledes, it Bleeds by Emily Goldsher-Diamond

This contemporary moment begs the question: what is a fact? And how do facts circulate? These questions are historical cornerstones in the study of the production of knowledge, and scaffold work in disciplines from philosophy to anthropology; however, in a post-truth climate asking after the genesis and dissemination of facts takes on a new and curious significance. The production and transmission of facts also engages new questions: where and how do people discover facts? What is the relationship between a fact and its reader? What is a fact’s effect?

The following will briefly think on the complexities of the fact as it has been thrown about in the past month, with special attention to the media (as a vector for transmission, a group of people and an object of study) that specializes in the production and dissemination of certain kinds of facts. These are stories about stories, about knowledge and power, and about the particular leakiness of information–if it ledes (a word for the opening text of an article) it is safe to say that it will likely bleed far from its initial and intended context. It is worth reflecting on what happens when a fact–a category already up for grabs–bleeds?

Harvard recently hosted an event entitled, “The Future of News: Journalism in a Post-Truth Era.” Earlier this month, the Harvard Gazette posted a comprehensive report on the meeting that convened reporters and thinkers from major outlets to weigh in on truth, facts and the media. The talks on “post-factualism” bridge the erosion of public trust in the media, what it means to be a reliable source, the notion of coastal elites and thinking carefully about language.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Are Cyborgs in Our Future? ‘Homo Deus’ Author Thinks So

February 23, 2017

(NPR) – The human species is about to change dramatically. That’s the argument Yuval Noah Harari makes in his new book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harari is a history professor at Hebrew University in Israel. He tells NPR’s Ari Shapiro that he expects we will soon engineer our bodies and minds in the same way we now design products.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Why Elon Musk’s Transhumanism Claims May Not Be That Far-Fetched

February 16, 2017

(Wired) – We must all become cyborgs if we are to survive the inevitable robot uprising. That’s the message from Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the entrepreneur who wants to send the human race to Mars. At the World Government Summit in Dubai, Musk argued that to avoid becoming redundant in the face of artificial intelligence we must merge with machines to enhance our own intellect.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

On Deanthropologizing Anthropology — An Essay on Tarek Elhaik’s “The Incurable Image” by Tobias Rees

“Are cultural anthropologists ready to shed their habit of using society and culture? (…) No, I don’t feel so. (…) It seems to me that many anthropologists wish to keep the human (…). There is a tricky problem here: concentrating around the human could mean either maintaining this character apart from other entities — the former beings of ‘nature’ defining by contrast what could be called the ‘humanistic’ position —, or it could mean accepting that, as soon as you take the human into consideration, it is suddenly redistributed (not disintegrated, that’s the whole point, but redistributed) in many other roles and connections that make its earlier figurations unrecognizable.”

Bruno Latour

 

1.

Could one deanthropologize anthropology? Is it possible to differentiate anthropology, science of the human, from the figure of ‘Man’ as it emerged in the 18th century and made anthropology possible (Foucault 1966)?

At first these questions may sound bizarre — and an anthropology journal an odd choice for asking them. However, the will to leave the human behind is a prominent feature of what one could call contemporary anthropologies of nature. The reference here is largely to the so-called ontological turn (for reviews see Kohn 2015; Boellstorff 2016) and multi-species anthropology (Helmreich and Kirksey 2010; Kirksey 2014).[1]

 

2.

Admittedly, I find the writings of the multi-species anthropologists and the ontologists — the two groups are best kept separate, precisely insofar as many of the former are not actually ontologists at all — hugely fascinating: I find myself intrigued by the effort to break free from ‘the human.’

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

The Dawn of the ‘Tryborg’

December 1, 2016

(New York Times) – Most cyborgs are disabled people who interface with technology. We depend on a computer for some major bodily function. The tryborg — a word I invented — is a nondisabled person who has no fundamental interface. The tryborg is a counterfeit cyborg. The tryborg tries to integrate with technology through the latest product or innovation. Tryborgs were the first to wear Google Glass. Today they wait in line for Snapchat Spectacles. The tryborg adopts the pose of a cyborg. But no matter how hard they try, the tryborg remains a pretender.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Your last chance to vote for the transhumanist candidate

As the bitter and dirty race for the American presidency draws to a close, it’s time to highlight the only candidate who has put bioethics at the front and centre of his campaign.

Zoltan Istvan is the Transhumanist candidate. His program is pretty simple: to overcome death and ageing within 15 years. A Tranhshumanist Bill of Rights for “Human beings, sentient artificial intelligences, cyborgs, and other advanced sapient life forms” commits government to working for indefinite life spans, morphological freedom and an end to involuntary suffering and ageing.

Some people have questioned the practicality of eliminating death, because of the resulting population explosion. However, Zoltan’s response is that “mind-uploading will be here in 50 years, so people might actually remain alive but in machines, making population levels easy to deal with.”

He has a few other ideas as well, such as surrendering the job of being president to artificial intelligence. He told the BBC:

“I’ve advocated for an artificial intelligence to become president one day. If we had a truly altruistic entity that was after the best interests of society maybe giving up at least some freedoms would be beneficial if that was truly in our best interests. What’s happened in the past is we’ve had dictators who are selfish, and they’ve done an absolutely terrible job of running countries. But what if you actually had somebody who really was after your best interests, wouldn’t you want him on your team?”

If you are planning to cast your vote for Mr Istvan, you will have to write in his name, as it is not on the ballot in any of the states.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

A New Edition of Science, Technology, & Society Is Now Available

November 1, 2016

Science, Technology and Society (Vol. 31, No. 1, 2016) is available online by subscription only.

Articles include:

  • “Science Fiction as Critique of Science: Organ Transplantation and the Body” by Brittany Anne Chozinski
  • “Do Cyborgs Desire Their Own Subjection? Thinking Anthropology With Cinematic Science Fiction” by Jessica Dickson

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.