I'm writing a longer piece reviewing the very encouraging progress made by Foresight at their big Nanotechnology conference in Washington D.C. this weekend
, which I've been attending. But I wanted to share with you radical cyborgs one of the odd, although possibly promising, aspects of the conference: The endorsement of the meeting by, and enthusiastic participation of, the religious conservatives from the Ethics and Public Policy Center
. In particular the EPPC’s wunderkind Adam Keiper
, managing editor of their bioconservative journal The New Atlantis
, set up a blog for the conference, blogged every talk, and even posted video clips of speakers.
In the summer of 2003 Keiper authored “The Nanotechnology Revolution
” in The New Atlantis
which argued that the prospect of molecular manufacturing had to be debated in Washington. He noted that the only opposition at that time was from nutty leftists and environmentalists (although the Christian Right joined the fray shortly after that
). And he outlined what he thought the real debate over nano should be. The problems of inequitable access and structural unemployment will quickly fade “as usually happens in our innovative market economy.” Rather, Keiper argued that the real problems were the “extinctionist challenge,” deciding how much “we tinker with and revise our bodies,” and “choose a future as men or machines.”
“The era of nanotechnology may be one of hubris and overreach, where we use our godlike powers to make the world anew. Is there room for wonder in a future where atoms march at our command?...Those who care about the deeper questions—about what nanotechnology means for human nature—must also master the details, both political and scientific. And they must offer not only lamentations for the disruptions and dehumanization that nanotechnology might cause, but a sensible vision of how nanotechnology might do some practical good—or even stir the very wonder that could be diminished by rearranging the smallest parts without seeing the whole.”
In other words, bioconservatives need to join the nanotech movement, champion everything short of radical changes in the human body, and militate against transhumanists. Most of Keiper’s blog entries from Washington were simple enthusiastic reportage, but some of the motivation of EPPC’s unexpected enthusiasm for engagement with such a transhumanist-inclined crowd was revealed in asides such as:
“There has been very little talk at this conference about transhumanism and cryonics, two fields intimately connected to nanotechnology. I'll spare you my own rather skeptical feelings on these subjects, and will instead let a cryonics true-believer explain his interest in his own words….”
When Keiper got up to speak on "The Importance of Nanotech Politics"
he avoided flacking for Bush (anti-)“science policy,” as he does in other fora
, and focused on winning the crowd with a pragmatic argument for how they could win more federal largesse. He noted the disproportionate numbers of political extremists in the audience, mentioning “anarcho-capitalists” and “neo-Marxists,” who are not engaged with the actual debates on nanotech policy in Congress and the parties. As a consequence, the molecular manufacturing faction was “getting its ass whipped” politically. In other words (pounding on the podium) if the Foresight types really want funding for molecular manufacturing they need to join the parties, especially the dominant party, the GOP. They need to stop tipping their hat the United Nations, which he noted was despised in Washington (at least by his friends).
The final conclusion he offered the audience: shun transhumanists. The “great political realignment” that is emerging, he argued, is between transhumanists of right and left, and those on the right and left who fear the “dangers of human hubris.” If the nano-enthusiasts want to get their horse ridden they need to ensure their prospects don’t rise or fall along with those of transhumanism and singularitarianism.
So call me a Pollyanna, but this made me smile. A flack from the party that controls all three branches of government, who sits in an office in a multi-million dollar complex on Capitol Hill, who serves as an adjunct to Leon Kass’ cleansing of American bioethics of post-Reformation ideas, this young policy warrior thinks the most important political intervention he can make is get nanotechers to cut loose transhumanists?