August 12, 2004

NOW Magazine on TV04, Transhumanism

Stephen Humphrey, who joined us at TV04, has published an article in Toronto's NOW magazine that discusses the transhumanism phenomenon and the recently concluded conference. Humphrey interviewed me, Simon Smith, Mark Walker and Nick Bostrom for the piece, which is called, "No Death Please, I'm Bionic." Despite some silly mistakes, the article is quite good. Humphrey interviewed me for a total of about 3 hours, and I'm pleased with how he interpreted my comments and the soundbites he chose for the article. Here are some excerpts:
Art And Life In The Posthuman Era is the theme of this year's conference. The human being as a work of art in progress is a good analogy for the transhumanist project of augmenting ourselves, whether outwardly with wearable tech or inwardly by rewriting the genome itself. Critics of the movement, who include environmentalists, bioethicists and people of faith – "bioconservatives" or "techno-Luddites" in the transhumanist vocabulary – would call such an approach interfering with nature, playing God and ignoring the warnings of cautionary fiction like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Margaret Atwood's Oryx And Crake.

"Leave evolution alone?" says Dvorsky. "That's unethical, that's barbaric, because, as we know from our friend Charles Darwin, nature works in a very cruel way. The transhumanist agenda, if we can talk about such a thing, is that ideally we'd like to be in a post-Darwinian phase where we're no longer subject to natural selection."
Dvorsky favours careful regulation of cloning science to prevent abuses. "Hopefully, future governments will honour the needs of citizens and not (those of) of corporations." He believes world democracy will be necessary for the human race to truly evolve. Still, he speaks about his right-leaning co-thinkers with a kind of collegial tolerance.

"Of course, being a transhumanist, one could say that I'm a bio-libertarian to some degree," says Dvorsky. "When I see something like Bill C-6 slip through, I'm very troubled at how much of a role the government is still playing in our lives."

Bill C-6, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, passed by the federal government in March, bans all forms of human cloning, prenatal manipulations like gender selection, and creating human-animal hybrids. Countries all over the world have drafted similar cloning laws or have them in the works. C-6 goes too far, says Dvorsky.

Unlike cloning laws in England, Korea and elsewhere, C-6 forbids therapeutic cloning, in which a cloned embryo is created specifically to harvest stem cells that would be compatible with a given patient. Such cloning could be used to treat Alzheimer's or grow Christopher Reeve a new spine.

No comments: