Friday, March 11, 2005

Mez's More Than Human Gets Rave Reviews

CybDemite Ramez Naam's book More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement was released this week, and it has been getting great reviews in, for instance, the LA Times, the Washington Examiner and NuSapiens Review. And MTH reached 1000 on Amazon this week. Excellent news for progressive transhumanism. NuSapiens has also posted a great interview with Mez:
NuSapiens: Part of your argument in More Than Human is that these technologies need to be available to everyone, not only people living in certain nations, and not only the rich. What steps can society take to ensure equal access to enhancement?

Ramez Naam: Really there are two key things. The first is to keep these technologies legal. One of the best ways to limit something to the rich is to ban it. When you do that, you create a black market. On the black market, prices rise, quality and safety suffer, and the legal punishments tend to get applied far more frequently to the poor than the rich. This is what we see in the War on Drugs today, or what we saw in Prohibition in the 20s.

The second is to recognize enhancement technologies as investments in the most valuable natural resource we have - people. Governments support these sorts of investments already. We give out scholarships and guarantee student loans. We provide free primary and secondary schooling. We immunize poor children for free. All of those steps actually pay for themselves and more in the long run - they prevent later health care costs or they produce citizens who contribute more to the economy after they've grown up and entered the work force.

In the US alone, a 1% reduction in health care costs would save almost $200 billion over 10 years. And a 1% productivity boost would earn the country $1 TRILLION over 10 years. If we could achieve that by subsidizing the cost of using biotech to slow the aging rate or boost mental capacity, wouldn't it be worth it?

NuSapiens: What are some of the greatest risks these technologies pose to society, and how should we handle them?

Ramez Naam: There are definitely risks - no doubt about that. Every new technology brings its share of problems. Antibiotics contributed to the population boom. Cars degrade air quality and lead produce traffic accidents, and so on.

In the case of enhancement technologies, I think equality is going to be one of the biggest challenges, as we just discussed.

The other, I think, is safety. Schwarzenegger said recently that when he started taking steroids, everyone thought they were safe. It looks like he ended up okay, but others have been hurt by using performance enhancers they didn't know the full effects of. In the 1980s, competitive cyclists started taking synthetic EPO - a compound that increases the number of red blood cells you have. Between 1987 and 1990, several Dutch and Belgian cyclists died of it. Their blood had become so thick that their hearts just couldn't keep on pumping it. The problem in both of these cases is that the medical profession never tested the use of these drugs to enhance performance. The FDA forced Amgen to test EPO on patients with anemia, where it does wonders. But it should have been obvious that people were going to use this stuff to try to boost their athletic performance as well. Because the FDA doesn't acknowledge that there might be such enhancement use, they don't require Amgen to do any testing of safety in athletes.

So one of the keys to the safety question, in my mind, is acknowledging that people are going to use drugs, gene therapies, and other technologies to enhance themselves. We need to understand that, study that kind of usage, and provide consumers good accurate information they can use to keep themselves safe.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Self-ownership vs. the "ownership society"

In "Who Owns What?" David Morris summarizes the perversity of the Bush approach to promoting the ownership society, focusing all efforts on privatizing the welfare state, while opposing extensions of personal liberty and extensions of individual capability and security by ensuring health and income security through universal provision.
President Bush's ownership society turns the word "ownership" on its head. He firmly believes that we don't own those things that most of us would indisputably believe we do own — our bodies, our privacy, our dignity, our bedrooms. And to add insult to injury, he just as firmly believes that we can own those things that most of us would argue are not ours to own — air, words, folklore.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Hughes, Carrico and Treder at the Basic Income Guarantee Congress

CybDemites J. Hughes, Dale Carrico and Mike Treder organized a panel at the Fourth Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network to discuss the impacts of emerging technologies such as life extension and advanced information technology, and propose policy solutions for their challenges.


Organizer: J. Hughes

Moderator: Mike Treder

Dale Carrico, “Pay to Peer: How Basic Income Will Support the Emerging Peer-to-Peer Networked Society”

J. Hughes, “BIG and Generational Equity in an Automated and Life Extended Future”

Mike Treder read the paper "Automatic for the People" by Simon Smith, who wasn't able to be present.

J. Hughes