January 30, 2006

Guardian: There is no stop button in the race for human re-engineering

Madeleine Bunting has written a piece for the Guardian in which she describes the inexorable tendency towards transhumanism.

Bunting notes how transhumanists believe that humanity is on the point of being liberated from its biology. "In their advocacy of our 'technological rights'," she says, "they believe that human beings are on the brink of a huge leap in development, leaving behind the sick, quarrelsome, weak, fallible creatures we have been up to now. We will be, as their slogan goes, 'better than well'."

She feels that North America has had a head start in the human enhancement debate and that Europeans need to get their heads around the issues soon so that they can influence what technologies are developed, rather than leaving it to the scientists and the pharmaceutical and military interests who sponsors research into human enhancement.

Much of the research that could be ultimately used for human enhancement, she argues, is urgently needed to counter such neuro-degenerative diseases as Alzheimer's. Consequently, Bunting writes with cautious optimism and concern, but also with a reserved sense of defeat. Transhumanism is coming, she argues, whether we like it or not -- so we'd better start managing the process now.

At the same time, however, she says it's possible to "envisage how fast, in a competitive, unequal world, we could hurtle towards some horrible futures."

Ultimately, however, Bunting believes that there's no point in sci-fi style panic. "The best hope lies in the strength and quality of public debate and democratic institutions to regulate and direct the use of these powerful technologies," she says.

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