Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Political Diversity of the World Transhumanist Association

I'll be releasing the report on the results of the second survey of the membership of the World Transhumanist Association, conducted in March, in a day or so. But I'm sure the CybDemites will be curious about the results of the political self-identity question. Very little change since the December 2003, although there was an uptick in left-wing identities.

Which of these best describes your political views? (2005)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

MSNBC Ponders Posthuman Equality, Coexistence

Does evolutionary theory allow for circumstances in which "spin-off" human species could develop again?

Some think the rapid rise of genetic modification could be just such a circumstance. Others believe we could blend ourselves with machines in unprecedented ways - turning natural-born humans into an endangered species...

Even in the event of a post-human split-off, evolutionary theory dictates that one species would eventually subjugate, assimilate or eliminate their competitors for the top job in the global ecosystem. Just ask the Neanderthals.

"If you have two species competing over the same ecological niche, it ends badly for one of them, historically," said Joel Garreau, the author of the forthcoming book "Radical Evolution."...

"You're talking about three different kinds of humans: the enhanced, the naturals and the rest," Garreau said. "The enhanced are defined as those who have the money and enthusiasm to make themselves live longer, be smarter, look sexier. That's what you're competing against."...

"But I could be a smart ass and ask how that's different from what we have now," said Brown University's Ken Miller (who)…went on to point out that in the past, "advances in medical science have actually been great levelers of social equality." For example, age-old scourges such as smallpox and polio have been eradicated, thanks to public health efforts in poorer as well as richer countries. That trend is likely to continue as scientists learn more about the genetic roots of disease, he said.
Link to article

Hughes featured in article on augmenting animals

Lakshmi Sandhana's piece "Augmenting the Animal Kingdom" in Wired Online hooks off James Auger's book Augmented Animals which offers technologies that can help animals in the wild "overcome their evolutionary shortcomings, promote their chances of survival or just simply lead easier and more comfortable lives." Sandhana contacted me for comment and I reiterated the personhood/animal enhancement argument I make in Citizen Cyborg:
If the debate over animal augmentation is still in its infancy, it will likely only grow along with advances in technology. Ultimately, some theorists argue, humans may have to decide whether they have a moral duty to help animals cross the divide that separates the species by giving them the ability to acquire higher mental functions -- a theme explored in apocalyptic films such as Planet of the Apes and The Day of the Dolphin.

'With children, the insane and the demented we are obliged, when we can, to help these 'disabled citizens' to achieve or regain their full self-determination,' says Dr. James J. Hughes, executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and author of Citizen Cyborg. 'We have the same responsibility to enhance the intelligence and communication abilities of great apes, and possibly also of dolphins and elephants, when we have the means to do so. Once they are sufficiently enhanced, they can make decisions for themselves, including removing their augmentation."
In the wake of the emerging brou-haha about the creation of chimeras, human-animal genetic and tissue mix-ups, a prospect that makes even some philosophers with transhumanist leanings queasy, someone should also be speaking up for the right of Cornelius, Zira and Dr. Moreau's patients to not only get self-awareness but also suffrage.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Happy May Day Y'all!