[Paleopsych] CBC: "The Human Future" by Jennifer Lahl

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Fri Aug 27 19:39:30 UTC 2004

"The Human Future" by Jennifer Lahl
Center for Bioethics and Culture Newsletter

    Movies like Bicentennial Man, AI, Simone and most
    recently, I Robot have gripped the public's imagination. But just how
    much of what is depicted in these films is Hollywood sensationalism?
    Will robots soon live amongst us, doing our household chores and being
    welcomed members of our families? Are humachines, the blending of
    humans and machines, just around the corner? Is a virtual world with
    virtual people just over the horizon? And what does it mean for
    humanity if we pursue the integration of technology into our very
    nature? Advances in technologies like artificial intelligence, that
    allows us to make super smart machines, cybernetics, that allows us to
    integrate computer technologies into our bodies and nanotechnology
    that allows us to make things really small and manipulate change at
    the molecular level, bring great promise to the treatment of sick and
    disabled people. For example, people with spinal cord injuries may be
    able to walk again with robotic artificial limbs. Blind people,
    through these advanced technologies, may be given their sight back.
    But what if that same sighted eye, used to treat blindness could be
    programmed to store all of the answers to your upcoming SATS? Will
    hard work and personal achievement be replaced by hard drives and
    smart chips? Technology cuts both ways. It can be used for both good
    and for harm. The lines between being human and being machines are
    quickly being blurred by these advancing technologies. How do we
    decide what, if any, are the appropriate limits of enhancing human
    beings? There are many techno enthusiasts who argue for no limitations
    on our ability to enhance the human race as far as technology allows.
    In fact, some would suggest that to not augment humans would be
    negligent. Others say we are going too far, too fast and there is no
    turning back once we go down this road and to proceed we do so at the
    risk of our own peril. These new questions are being raised now. They
    have a profound effect on what it means to be human as we integrate
    technology within our very nature. Because of the huge possibilities
    before us and the possibility of irreversible harm, the CBC is hosting
    its second round of conversations in the next great debate on the
    future of the human race. The Face of the Future: Techno sapiens Phase
    II will be held in Washington DC on October 28th and 29th. In true CBC
    style, we have brought together all of the voices for this second
    round of conversations, begun last year in California. Leading
    advocates and critics will join us. We are pleased to announce a
    sampling of the confirmed speakers:
      * Dr. Leon Kass, Chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics
      * Nick Bostrom, Co-founder of the World Transhumanist Organization
      * Nigel Cameron Ph.D. Chairman of the CBC and conference chairman
      * Christine Peterson, President of the Foresight Organization
      * William Hurlbut M.D. Stanford University and member of the
        President's Council on Bioethics
      * Lori Andrews J.D. Chairman of the Board, The Institute on
        Biotechnology and the Human Future and leading U.S. expert on
        biotech law
      * C. Christopher Hook M.D., Head of Ethics at Mayo Clinic
      * Ben Mitchell Ph.D. Editor of Ethics and Medicine
      * William Cheshire M.D. Department of Neurology Mayo Clinic

    Through this conference we hope to not only raise the questions and
    highlight areas of disagreement but to more importantly help provide a
    way forward. Is there middle or perhaps common ground? Is there a
    point where we can agree and begin from there to lay down policy
    recommendations, help to shape future laws and educate the public? We
    hope that you will join us for this most interesting conference. The
    future of the human race is at stake.

    Olympics 2004, The Last of the True Athletes

    Recent commentaries by the SFgate and the Scientific American consider
    that we may look back on the 2004 Olympics as the last year that
    athletes competed naturally. As soon as 2008, athletes may be able to
    perform with the help of new advanced genetic enhancements. These
    genetic therapies, called "gene-doping", would actually alter the
    genes of the athletes, and would be undetectable by testing blood. It
    could make them faster and stronger.

    Therapies used to help humans who suffer from degenarative muscle
    diseases may also be used to enhance performance. Is this appropriate?
    Is genetic enhancement always ethically problematic? These are the
    questions we ought to grapple with when considering the power of
    technology and its implications.

    Related commentaries:
    [10]Scientific American



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