December 4, 2010

Adrienne Asch and James Edward Block: "The Mechanization of Politics: Rethinking Human Transformation" [CFI conference on biomedical enhancement]

Adrienne Asch and James Edward Block are presenting: "The Mechanization of Politics: Rethinking Human Transformation."

{Adrienne presents first}

Enhancements are not value neutral; they will not improve society and will likely lead us in a negative direction. We may end up at a place that no one could have predicted.

Hyperparenting can happen outside the context of human enhancement -- but it will make the situation considerably worse.

The parent-child relationship will be altered when enhancement enters the picture because they will expect to see their child fulfill 'genetic' and other expectations. They will do what they can to get the result they aimed at. Asch and Block worry that parents won't love their children as unconditionally when enhancement is part of the equation.

Children need to feel that their achievements were the result of their efforts and individuality. This is jeopardized when kids know they've been enhanced. Children may feel that they've let down their parents if they haven't lived up to the expectations they set up through particular enhancements.

Choice and authenticity are weakened in a world with enhanced children. Genetics will predispose children to seek certain goals, bred for a certain role.

Enhancements endanger reasonable parent-child relationships.

Other values lost in the shuffle: cooperation, sharing, working well in groups. Exclusion and conformity, on the other hand, are the results of an enhanced future.

When it comes to enhanced traits, one thing we value one moment we may dis-value the next (e.g. perfect memory). And do we want a society of extroverts and speed demons? Shyness and constrain can also be seen as worthy traits. Could we fully get the message of a novel or poem if our personalities are constrained to a certain type? Society needs people with a list of many traits.

What is the problem the enhancers are trying to solve? They seem to want more of what we already have (life, physicality, etc.). But this will only work to increase disparities. Enhancement proponents do not see their agenda as part of a broader global social imperative to improve conditions for all people. It's too individualistic. How do we get from 'humans who don't need to sleep' to solving world problems?

Humans and posthumans will never be able to control all the variables of their lives. We will continue to find meaning without enhancement, and continue to help those truly in need without it.

In regards to moral enhancement, we are having difficultly coming to a consensus about what is moral behavior and how we could ever engineer that into human psychology. Moreover, empathy alone without the will to act on it is useless and potentially detrimental to the person. Social reform extends beyond mere empathy.

Don't see how James Hughes's democratic leftist transhumanism can be part of a progressive agenda when there are so many libertarian transhumanists. He hasn't made the case that a coherent and consistent transhumanism (or enhancement politics) is even possible.

{James Edward Block takes over the talk}

Asch and Block are concerned about the over-emphasis on meritocracy. In our quest for inner and outer mastery, we are losing out on relational experience. For example, our baby Einstein grows up to be an adult Einstein; where was the development and growth.

One loves others and the world by first learning to love and respect oneself. When we avoid the early stages we avoid the growth process. We become more vulnerable to falling into the traps of social compliance.

Culture of more is getting out of control, and now extending into the enhancement camp.

We are told that contemporary experience is the enemy of change. And is enhancement seen as a substitute for politics? It's a kind of magical thinking. Enhancement is a fall-back for 19th and 20th century social utopianism.

Our pursuit to control nature has stunted our ability to manage and refine social/political relations.

We are becoming excellent information processors, in tune with our technological environment; As a result we are dead emotionally and morally inside.

How are we so talented in our world, yet feel so inadequate? We need to find new skills and capacities within our existing social and physical bodies. Purpose, not functionality.

1 comment:

Felix H. Cat said...

"Choice and authenticity are weakened in a world with enhanced children."

Concerning choice, predisposed genetics leave little up to personal "choice"-- and what is this holy grail of "authenticity" really worth? The definition of personal "success" is still up to the individual-- I'm hardly doing what I do to please my parents. If one could give one's children a toolkit with which they would have a better chance of personal success, that overwhelmingly will be a good thing of benefit to the child.

I couldn't disagree with the premise of this article more.

"Other values lost in the shuffle: cooperation, sharing, working well in groups. Exclusion and conformity, on the other hand, are the results of an enhanced future."

On what basis does the OP make this assertion? Does visual or auditory enhancement for the visually of hearing impaired impede "cooperation, sharing, working well in groups"? I would argue it's just the opposite. The enhancement of current of abilities not yet common is, in my view analogous to gifting a blind man with sight.