I have worked a number of years in trauma and emergency medicine, and have learned a few lessons about human nature along the way that I think may be of benefit to others. Our tendency as human beings to carry around an Optimism Bias is probably one of our most deadly traits.
It may be a push, but I think it is fair to say that no branch of modern medicine faces the same existential challenges as psychiatry. To give a sense of the problem, a quick browse through Amazon reveals aplethoraofbooks, many published within the past ten years, that either directly challenge the legitimacy of mental illness, call into question the medicalisation of the mind, or dispute the unholy alliance between “pharma” and psychiatry.
When our most precious and hard fought for successes give rise to yet more challenges life is revealing its Sisyphean character. We work as hard as we can to roll a rock up a hill only to have it crush us on the way down. The stones that threatens us this time are two of our global civilization’s greatest successes- the fact that children born are now very likely to live into old age and the fact that we have stretched out this old age itself so that many, many more people are living into ages where in the past the vast majority of their peers would be dead. These two demographic revolutions when combined form the basis of what I am calling the Longevity Crisis. Let’s take infant mortality first.
The study, conducted by a team of scientists and clinicians from JCVI and WCHN, will focus on two groups of elderly individuals aged 65 to 85 years by correlating genetics with a variety of human genomic, gut microbiome and other “omics” profiles and integrating these data with the individuals’ health record. One group will consist of healthy individuals, and the other will have individuals with a variety of diagnosed health conditions.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without pain relief. We depend on these drugs to an unspeakable degree, yet few of us know what’s available or how they even work. Here’s a quick primer on painkillers and why they’re so good at easing the pain.
As the Bob Dylan song says: “Things should start to get interesting right about now.” You may think they’re already interesting—what with government closings, threats of a debt default, and extremist rhetoric under the Capitol Dome—but chances are we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. In twelve weeks or so our new system of government-by-crisis will resume its regularly scheduled programming: more threats, more confrontations, and even more extreme rhetoric.
A new study spearheaded at Columbia University aims to provide parents with more information about their unborn children—including potential abnormalities and genetic defects. Spread across 10 different research hospitals that plan to secure 1,000 women each to participate, knowledge gained from the study will contribute to the ethical dialogue surrounding what parents do with more prenatal testing data.
Time recently ran a cover story titled, “Can Google Solve Death?” The wording was a bit much, as the subject of the piece, Google’s new firm Calico, has more modest ambitions, like using “tools like big data to determine what really extends lives.” But even if there won’t be an app for immortality any time soon, we’re increasingly going to have to make difficult decisions about when human limits should be pushed and how to ensure ethics keeps pace with innovation.
The new documentary Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement explores the difficult relationship of human enhancement and the disability movement. It is interesting and generally well balanced. But there is one brief clip of me from a television debate which apparently leaves audiences gasping. It is one in which I appear to compare people with disabilities to dogs. I really didn’t, and was actually making a substantially different point quite contrary to the filmmaker’s tortured attempt to link transhumanism to 1930s eugenics.
The technological revolution gives us an opportunity to view questions of social justice differently. One example pertains to the handicapped. We now see them as needy unfortunates; objects of social and humanitarian concern rather than autonomous subjects capable of managing their own lives.
The strategic aim of universal health coverage is to ensure that everyone can use the health services they need without risk of financial ruin or impoverishment, no matter what their socio-economic situation. The over-arching concept of universal health coverage takes a broad view of the services that are needed for good health and well-being.
Planning childbirth and discouraging or eliminating factors that contribute to preventable birth complications are a priority for many transhumanists. All people should have access to reproductive services for free to use at their discretion, especially if we concede to live under a capitalist system that requires poverty, which in turn limits access to adequate care. This is a basic concept on which many transhumanists, especially at the IEET, agree.
The IEET would like to collaborate with active members of our community in writing technoprogressive policy documents to be included in the Technoprogressive Policy Wiki, as well as longer technoprogressive white papers.
A basic income (also called basic income guarantee, unconditional basic income, universal basic income or citizen’s income) is a proposed system of social security that regularly provides each citizen with a sum of money unconditionally. Unlike a Guaranteed minimum income, a basic income is entirely unconditional: the only requirement for receiving it is to be a citizen and/or resident of the country without means test. Instead, a minimum income may be conditional upon participating in government enforced labor or other conditional means testing. A basic income of any amount less than the social minimum is sometimes referred to as a ‘partial basic income’. Similar proposals for “capital grants provided at the age of majority” date to Thomas Paine’s Agrarian Justice of 1795, there paired with asset-based egalitarianism.
Project Prevention paid a total of 4,613 people, including eighty-four men, to get one of these birth-control procedures, including IUDs, tubal ligation, Depo-Provera, implanon, or vasectomy over its first fifteen years of operation.iii The project began in California after Harris failed to pass a bill to establish criminal penalties for mothers who consume. Harris began this crusade after adopting four children of a crack-addicted mother in Los Angeles. She responded in a reactionary manner, blaming parents, without much if any sympathy for those who suffer systemic oppression.
Whether or not some form of life extension treatment is possible remains to be seen. Even less imminent than extending lifespan is the prospect of some form regenerative therapies (or modifications) that reduce effective lifespan and restore some form of youthfulness. ‘The person on the street’ tends to estimate how close these treatments might be.
In the recent IEET survey we asked “When there are safe cures for these conditions should parents be legally obliged to provide them for their children?” and offered examples ranging from cerebral palsy to ADD. The more than 500 respondents were surprisingly supportive of legal obligations to provide these treatments to children, with majorities in support of all the treatments. Of course some of you were more supportive than others.
“The year is 2032. You have just celebrated your 80th birthday and you have some tough decisions ahead. You can keep repairing your current body or move into a new one. The growing of ‘blank’ bodies has become one of the fastest advancing health industries in the world, and by using your own genetic material, body farmers can recreate your biological condition at age 20.” The above scenario was taken from “When Death Becomes Optional,” written by Google’s top-rated Futurist, Thomas Frey in a recent K21st article.
A few weeks have passed now since the Supreme Court struck down Myriad’s patents on mutations in BRCA genes 1 and 2 correlating to higher rates of breast and ovarian cancers, and the airwaves and blogosphere are still awash with a plethora of incriminations, congratulations, and musings about what it all means, I want to address what is to me a central lesson: philosophy matters.
Eugenics is a curse word. The very idea of Eugenics can no longer be disassociated from the atrocities waged in its name. On account of this idea people were imprisoned, tortured, mutilated and murdered, all throughout the western world.
My brain contains up to 100 billion neurons, each connecting to other nerve cells through thousands of synapses. These interactions process signals coming into the nervous system, and then produce output responses that stimulate my body’s biological functions, everything from thinking to walking to kissing.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to understand the science behind human violence; and then find ways to alter an enemy's thoughts by implanting false, but believable stories in their brains. The goal is to create a more peaceful scenario: We're your friend, not your enemy.
A lot of people would like to live forever, or at least for much longer than they currently do. But there is one obvious impediment to this: our biological bodies break down over time and cannot (with current technologies) be sustained indefinitely. So what can be done to avoid our seemingly inevitable demise? For some, like Aubrey de Grey, the answer lies in tweaking and re-engineering our biological bodies. For others, the answer lies in the more radical solution of mind-uploading, or the technological replacement of our current biological bodies.
It should be within our rights to take our own lives when the circumstances warrant it. That means we must be prepared to accept laws in favor of assisted suicide. This becomes even more important in light of potential technologies that could grant us extreme longevity.
When people find out that my mother died of non-small cell lung cancer, almost invariably, the first thing they ask is, “did she smoke?”1 It’s a truism that holds today, and it started shortly after she was diagnosed – even from people who should have known better. In other words, every bioethicist, save one, flat-out asked me that.
Australian researchers have isolated an immune system cell in salamanders which helps it regenerate missing limbs and damaged organs — and they suspect the same thing could work in humans, too. Salamanders, or axolotls, are unique among vertebrates in that they’ve got remarkable regenerative powers. Adults can literally regrow and restore function to any part of the body, including the spinal cord and heart — even parts of the brain. Moreover, the regenerated tissue is scar free; once repaired, the new tissue looks almost the same as it was before.