Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"Humanity: The Remix" by Alyssa Ford - Utne Reader May-June 2005

An amazing cover story on the emerging biopolitics, profiling libertarian and democratic transhumanists versus Christian and leftist bioconservatives.
"Humanity: The Remix" Alyssa Ford

'democratic transhumanists' view societal controls as crucial to realizing their openly utopian dreams. Some argue that the trend is irreversible: As with in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproduction techniques, the public demand for longer lives, prettier children, and better moods will override efforts to stop them. If these powerful new technologies are to be used justly, they say, the time to embrace them is now.
Read the entire article. It also profiles J. Hughes toe-to-toe with Jeremy Rifkin.

Ramez Naam's excellent interview in NeoFiles

Former editor of Mondo 2000, RU Sirius has become, with his latest project NeoFiles, one of the leading journalists covering the transhumanist politics and policy beat. In this issue of NeoFiles he interviews CybDemite Ramez Naam, author of the best-selling (relatively) More Than Human
The absolute worst thing you can do if you want these technologies equally available to poor and rich is to ban them. Prohibition would create a black market with worse safety, higher prices, and no scientific tracking of what's going on. Viagra and cocaine cost roughly the same per gram at the moment. In a decade, Viagra will be much cheaper but cocaine will be the same price it is now. I think we'd rather our enhancements follow prescription drug economics rather than illegal drug economics.

And even if governments could implement perfect bans, that wouldn't stop people from using these technologies. Asia is much more receptive to biotech than the US and Europe. If a rich couple can't get the genetic treatments they want here, they can absolutely fly to Singapore or Thailand and have it done there. The poor or middle class couple doesn't have the same options.

If anything, where I'd like to see government intervene is in the opposite direction — investing in those who can't afford these technologies themselves. We already spend a large amount of money enhancing our children. We have free grade schools and high schools, free vaccinations for poor children, guaranteed student loans.
Memory Pharmaceuticals is employing biotechnology to remedy Alzheimer's.

And those things pay dividends. Every 1% decrease in health care costs saves the country $10 Billion a year. Every 1% increase in productivity makes the country $100 Billion richer in a year, or a $1 Trillion richer over a decade. That money comes from innovation — architects designing better buildings, engineers making better cars, coders putting out better software, scientists inventing entirely new things we haven't conceived of. And that's why we invest in things like education — because we know they pay dividends later on. Biotech enhancements have the same potential. Maybe someday we'll have government personal enhancement loans and scholarships. I can dream.
Check out the complete interview.