June 30, 2007

My guest article for the OGI's ReGenesis: Science and Society column

The Ontario Genomics Institute recently asked me to be a guest author for their ReGenesis: Science and Society column. The OGI provides 'Facts Behind the Fiction' for ReGenesis to help viewers keep the science and ethics of genomics and other cutting-edge biotechnologies in context.

ReGenesis is a Canadian television program produced by The Movie Network and Movie Central in conjunction with Shaftesbury Films. The series revolves around the scientists of NorBAC (The North American Biotechnology Advisory Commission), a fictional organisation with a lab based in Toronto. The organisation deals with problems throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

I was asked to contribute a column for the final episode of the season which deals with the issue of human enhancement. Here's an excerpt from the article:
The scenario as presented in this episode brings to mind the futuristic vision of the transhumanists – a group of thinkers and activists who contend that humanity can and should use advanced biotechnologies to extend and enhance human capacities.

More specifically, transhumanists advocate increased funding and awareness for research into radically extending healthy human lifespans. They favour the development of medical and technological means to improve such things as memory, concentration, intelligence and physical capacities. They argue that all people should have the option to use such means to enhance various dimensions of their cognitive, emotional and physical well-being. Transhumanists consider these types of advancements as natural extensions of the traditional aims of medicine and technology to improve the human condition.

To this end, transhumanists are supportive of research into human genomics, biogerontology (the study of the causes of aging), cognitive pharmaceuticals, stem cells and other regenerative medicines. A number of these ‘transhumanistic’ biotechnological possibilities were showcased in this episode, including gene therapy employing viral transmission of genetic data, the regeneration of Bob’s optical nerve, and the acquisition – or creation – of an entirely new sense.

Looking ahead to the future, transhumanists consider the potential for technologies such as cybernetics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence to significantly alter the human species. They envision radically advanced ‘transhumans’ and ‘posthumans’ who live indefinite life spans and who have cognitive capacities that vastly exceed our own.
The entire article can be found here.

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