May 30, 2004

Pethokoukis addresses >H

James Pethokoukis of USNews talks to James Hughes about how technology should be regulated: [right on, J -- two significant articles in one week, the other being Free Inquiry]:
Next News: What's your perspective on the precautionary principle as applied to genetic engineering and other medical technologies?

Hughes: The "precautionary principle" is generally used by Luddites to say "we shouldn't do X because we don't know what its long-term implications will be." We think technological regulation should respect individual rights to control our own bodies and only interfere with those rights when there are clear and immediate harms to public health. For instance, we think human reproductive cloning should be illegal until it has been proven safe in animal studies. Then it should be considered a reproductive right since all the blather about the deconstruction of family ties and so forth aren't legitimate reasons to interfere in intimate decisions about reproduction.

Next News: What is the role of government, as you see it, in advancing these technologies?

Hughes: Transhumanists are divided on the best ways to advance technology innovation and access. Some of us, like me, are strong advocates of expanding government funding of basic science and creating a universal healthcare system that makes enhancement technology available to everybody. Others think a minimalist government, both in funding research and ensuring universal access, is the best way to ensure the rapid development and broad accessibility of good tech. Similarly, we are divided about the legitimacy of government regulation for safety. Some think that safety regulations are killing innovations and generally oppose new regulation. I and others support all legitimate regulation that is strictly intended to ensure the safety of technologies. What we are united on is our opposition to Luddite and religious fundamentalist bans on promising technologies based on worries about "playing God" or open-ended anxieties about the long-term implications of technology.

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