Tag: transhumanism

Bioethics News

Transhumanism. Error of the gods and the power of man? A phylosofical approach

Technological progress urgently needs the emergence of moral progress so that the spark of reason does not consume the existence of humankind

The technical skills of humans have always been remarkable throughout history, so much so that, even now, the artifacts of classical antiquity leave us astounded at the ingenuity of man. Those who are familiar with the Antikythera mechanism (see video HERE) can attest to the fact that the complexity of this computing system, devised to calculate the movement of the stars, is staggering. The wonder that our creations elicit in us might make us think that the creative and technical ability that characterizes us has a divine origin.

It was Plato, among others, who described in his Protagoras, and put into the mouth of the famous Athenian sophist, the myth of the formation of man. In it, the gods forge the mortal races from other gods that have not yet finished forming in the elements of earth and fire. Thus, the gods command the brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus to capture these incomplete gods and divide their abilities to distribute them among the mortal races. Hence, the link of the mortal races with the gods is obvious according to the myth, because they are formed from the fragments of incomplete gods.

Epimetheus asks Prometheus to allow him to take charge of the formation of the new races, and distributes the fragmented abilities. His intention is to create a balance between the new beings so that they do not destroy each other. Those that enjoy some advantage over the rest are surpassed by others in another aspect.

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

Germ line genome editing. Current tendency is to accept it, with the ethical difficulties that it entails

In December 2015, an international summit took place in Washington D.C., convened by the United States National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, at which scientists, doctors, bioethicists and specialists in legal matters met to reach a consensus on the application of genome editing (see HERE) in humans, at both laboratory and clinical level.

As a result of this summit, a report was drawn up (see HERE) and has recently been published. The report tackles questions on the application of gene editing in humans, including the balance between the potential benefits and unintended harms, how to govern the use of genome editing, the incorporation of societal values into clinical applications and policy decisions, and respect for the differences across nations and cultures that will determine whether these new technologies will be used and how. One of the most relevant aspects of this report, however, is that it favors the use of genome editing techniques on the germ line, i.e. gametes and early embryos, although restricting their use only to the prevention of serious diseases and providing that there is no other alternative.

The risks of germ line genome editing are unpredictable, aggravated by the fact that the changes produced will be transmitted to offspring. An added concern is that their application to disease prevention could open the door to human enhancement or the production of designer children (see HERE), which would mean modifying our genome to make us stronger, taller, thinner, more intelligent, etc., which is known as transhumanism.

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: Be Right Back

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. 
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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 Blogs

Radical Technology, Bodyhacking, & Medicine

Michele Battle-Fisher calls on conventional medical to consider how acts of healing will change in the context of transhumanism.

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Humanness is in flux as human bodies are being hacked (altered) by transhumanists and others in their quest for super wellness, super intelligence and super longevity.

Bodyhacking refers to changing the human body in appearance and function using a “device, technique or procedure that an individual CHOOSES to utilize, augment, modify or improve their body.” Examples of bodyhacking include implanting magnets under one’s skin to be able to open a garage door, and implanting an engineered human ear on one’s arm to gain hypersensory abilities. Typically, such ‘hacks’ are not approved by governmental agencies or traditional medical insurance. According to Body Hacking Con, while bodyhacking is typically considered fringe, bodyhackers are “simply people who hack (alter) their bodies.”

Bodyhacking is part of a counterculture movement that is often called transhumanism. Transhumanists believe that the body is obsolete and that death is a cruel end to be avoided. In their view, the time is ripe for taking advantage of fast-paced technologies to improve our imperfect bodies and eventually cheat death.

Recent revolutionary innovations such as CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology are helping to further push the boundaries of bodyhacking by fighting the genetic causes of death. While the medical community has accepted the idea of somatic cell gene editing, germline gene editing remains controversial.  There is much excitement in the transhumanism community that biohacks such as CRISPR will move from the purvue of controlled medical settings to the at-home, do-it-yourself labs.

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

Transhumanism: the abolition of man?

Transhumanist goal intends to free human beings from their human condition with technological support

What is transhumanism? What is the meaning of this concept? When we hear the word transhumanism, the idea may come to mind that it is possible to improve human nature, to go beyond the cultural and social present in which human societies find themselves right now. That is essentially the claim. Transhumanism seeks to improve the human condition, to perfect it, to take it beyond the present moment to overcome its limitations through technology.

Viewed thus, the transhumanist goal seems legitimate, for when has man not sought to perfect himself, to find new cultural situations that offer him a better way of life commensurate with his dignity? Perhaps this is not the right question, though, to find the supposed legitimacy of transhumanism to perfect the human being.

This word must be examined more closely: trans-humanism. It seeks to go beyond the human. Perhaps because the human is seen as a problem. It can undoubtedly be said here that this is the case: the trans is sought – because the human should be eradicated. In itself, the nature of the human being is his condemnation. We can thus see in the transhumanist position the pursuit of European Enlightenment culture, which holds the belief that the human being must be removed from nature in order to be free. Human freedom must be withdrawn from the order of nature in order to be fully realised. In a certain way, herein lies the ideal of scientific progress of modernity.

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

Memories Shouldn’t Last a Megabyte

By: Shari Esquenazi

Imagine a world where you can take a picture of anything you desire with just your eyes. You can keep these images stored forever on a wireless device, immediately and infinitely retrievable.  Sounds great, right?

Recent scientific advancements have made contact lenses that are embedded with small cameras a reality. Such forthcoming technologies tend to bring an abundance of ethical considerations with them. 

Google’s “Glass” was the first step toward eyewear that can record photos and video. The tech giant applied for a patent for a contact lens camera in 2014.  Last year, Sony filed a similar patent for a contact lens-embedded camera. While these contacts have a variety of practical uses which both benefit individuals and the overall society, they are not without their faults.

This technology would be undeniably valuable in innumerable situations. A witness to a crime could take a photo that defends the word of a victim, trimming down court cases and protecting innocent citizens in society. A surgeon who finds herself in a problematic operation could live stream the images to another specialist for advice on how to quickly and safely remedy the situation and save a life. 

While the technology has unparalleled benefits, there are ethical concerns that need to be deeply weighed before a person opts for such a capacity in day-to-day life. A brief bioethical analysis illustrates these concerns. 

The existential and ethical theory of transhumanism is the belief that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, particularly by means of science and technology.

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 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 News

How I Became a Cyborg and Joined an Underground Medical Movement

November 17, 2016

(Market Watch) – Interest has been spreading, with Watson quickly working through his latest supply of magnets. One woman recently traveled to Ice 9 Studio from Australia for a radio-frequency identification chip she uses to store personal information. Watson’s business frequently comes through his connection to Grindhouse Wetware, a Pittsburgh-area startup of “biohackers” who aim to augment the human body with technology. If successful, they’ll be at the vanguard of a movement called transhumanism that experiments with how technology can give us new, almost-superhuman, abilities.

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

Part II: Bioethics meets HIDDEN FIGURES – A Peace Genre Film

Hidden Figures Panel Mind the Gap: (In no order)  Melina Saval (Variety), Elizabeth Gabler (president, Fox 2000), Mimi Valdez (Executive Producer), Mandy Walker (DP), Marissa Paiva (Vice President, Fox 2000), Zoë Elton (Director of Programming), Mark Fiskin ( CFI Executive Director)

HIDDEN FIGURES is a high concept film, but not unbearably weighted. Instead, writer Director Theodore Melfi’s exquisite ensemble animates this inspirational focused story with humor as well as purpose. These are after all the things daily helping people survive oppression. Among the actors are Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons. For my money — it is a Peace Genre film.


HIDDEN FIGURES is important because it speaks to the lives of ordinary working people. In this case in a Black American community. They are not the most deprived, not the wealthiest. Depicting social and environmental justice only in the context of brutality desensitizes viewers to the subtle degradation which wears away at a persons potential. Violence brings in the box office, but where are the rest of the stories? Is the only drive for a better life defense of ones lowest level of the Maslow Scale — food and shelter? Evidence suggest otherwise and so does HIDDEN FIGURES. 

There is an on going dialog between film and social responsibility. Part of this dialog is stimulated by the technology of the art of film and the function of the brain. Our movie memory seems to go where our actual memory is stored. Over time our life understanding seems blurred with the stories and films we have seen mixed with those we have lived.

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.