Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies


James Hughes Ph.D.
Executive Director
Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

56 Daleville School Rd.
Willington CT 06279 USA
(office) 860-297-2376

New Institute to Provide Balanced Views on Human Enhancement Technologies

Willington, CT, USA -- November 8, 2004 -- When should parents be permitted to genetically enhance their children? How can we regulate psychoactive drugs in ways that respect cognitive liberty? How can we avoid exacerbating inequality as human enhancement technologies spread?

The mission of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies is to become a center for responsible, constructive approaches to emerging human enhancement technologies. We believe that technological progress can be a catalyst for positive human development so long as we ensure that technologies are safe and equitably distributed.

As yet there has been no institutional home for the consideration of the ethical challenges of emerging human enhancement technologies free from both anti-regulatory dogmas that deny the legitimacy of democratic public policy, and technophobic red herrings such as anxieties about transgressing the boundaries of humanness. The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies intends to fill that gap.

The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies will be directed by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom Ph.D., who will chair the Board of Directors, and bioethicist James J. Hughes Ph.D., who teaches at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut USA and who will serve as Executive Director. The IEET is incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the United States, but its Board of Directors currently come from Spain, Canada, the UK and the United States. The IEET will also be served by a Board of Advisors, which is now being formed.

The IEET has appointed six 2004-2005 Fellows: nano-policy thinker Mike Treder; development policy futurists Jose Cordeiro and Jamais Cascio; biogerontologist Aubrey de Grey; human rights writer Dale Carrico; and philosopher, and science fiction author and critic, Russell Blackford.
The work of the IEET will also be served by student interns. Applications for internships are now being accepted.

The Fellowships, internships and work of the IEET are structured around six programs of action: Global Health; Relationships, Community and Technology; Consequences and Ethics of Emerging Technologies; Self-Determination and Human Rights; Longer, Better Lives; and Visions of Utopia and Dystopia.

Specific activities of the IEET include placing essays in newspapers and journals, underwriting selected research and analysis, promoting leading thinkers through events and publicity campaigns, and producing publications, journals and audio-visual materials. In particular the IEET has assumed management of the Journal of Evolution and Technology which has published academic research on questions of human enhancement and technological futurism since 1998.

The Institute will organize several events per year in Europe and North America. In July 2005 the IEET will co-sponsor a conference in Caracas Venezuela, focusing on human enhancement technologies and the developing world, with the World Transhumanist Association. (The IEET will work closely with the World Transhumanist Association, which is also chaired by Dr. Bostrom and served by Dr. Hughes as its Executive Director.) In September 2005 the IEET will co-sponsor a conference on Human Rights and Human Enhancement with the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics.

For more information: http://ieet.org or
Contact: director @ ieet.org
Phone: 860-297-2376

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Sunday, November 07, 2004

Debating the Future of Life with the Youth

I was asked to be a guest speaker for the Future Life: The destiny of the human species workshop as part of the weekend-long Science and Society international forum held at Montmorency College in Laval for college students from across Quebec.

Unfortunately, I was too busy to prepare myself for such an event but I was able to free myself at the last minute to attend as a silent observer.

To my surprise, the moderator actually used my (distorted) comments about the goals of transhumanism from a recent newspaper article to give the guest speakers and the audience a specific topic to begin the debate with!

Although it was extremely hard for me to sit in a chair and not be able to intervene to defend the transhumanist project, it was a great learning experience because I was exposed to the fears that an educated segment of Quebecer youth have concerning biotechnological human enhancement.

It made me realize that, although most young people fully embrace information technology, many of them share the same bioreactionary tendencies of their parents...

Obviously these concerns are reinforced by popular culture, with its growing number of science-fiction films depicting mad biologists and biodystopias, but also the rhetoric and growing influence of the anti-GMO movement. However, after the workshop, I had the chance to talk to some students and I was very happy to see how receptive they were to democratic transhumanist arguments.

Youth outreach may become a greater priority than I anticipated...