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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Kass Speaks! -- Bio, Long, Noo, Soc

Leon Kass, until recently the chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics (until he stepped aside last fall), offers an emotional critique of the dangers he feels are inherent in biotechnology -- particularly the dangers inherent in trying to make people "better than well" by artificial means. This article notes:
...he has been gamely and evenhandedly trying to work his way through the embryo debate, which really is just a salient in the larger culture war between "choice" and "life." But in an era in which biomedical technologies have already begun to alter the broad and basic contours of human nature, questions about when life begins, or what is permissible in the name of medicine, seem almost quaint. "Killing the creature made in God's image is an old story," he says. "Redesigning him after our own fantasies: That's what's really new."

Given that Future Imperative's driving principle is the idea that people will make better decisions about human enhancement issues if they're better informed about them, I've decided to link to this article on Kass' views from the Wall Street Journal's opinion page. Along the lines of this "bio-conservative" theme (Kass' opinions are often seen as the epitome of bio-conservative positions), I'd also like to link to The New Atlantis. This journal expresses the bio-conservative ideas of various Republican writers.

Curiously, the government has offered a number of radical enhancement visions for the future, particularly regarding the augmentation of American troops -- concepts frequently associated with military conservatives (and some moderates), including no small number of Republicans. Honestly, I have no idea what this means in political terms, but it is interesting that a party often seen as well organized seems to have two major currents beginning to clash on this issue. WIll one of them prevail? Will these advocates continue to ignore each other? Will they come to some kind of compromise? Or will these decisions ultimately be made by people outside of these two camps, once the debate moves into a larger and more public arena?

I don't know, but it seems like an important area for future journalistic exploration.

Future Imperative


Blogger Gina said...

You make a good point, it is interesting that emerging technology is encouraged by the gov if it is developed for war efforts but discouraged for biotechnology applications that could save lives. I must be looking in a mirror, where everything is reverse.

January 19, 2006 8:50 PM  
Blogger Ralph Cerchione said...

The weird thing is, probably the most pragmatic, non-ideological technology adopters seem to be in areas like the military or highly competitive industries. I believe the "life-or-death" circumstances these individuals and organizations face push them to be more adaptable. Those who refuse to be flexible and look at their options without preconceptions (either for or against) tend to lose.

And when losing means either your literal destruction or the loss of your company, you have a heck of a motivation to look at what works, not just what feels good or makes some people (other than customers/regulators) feel better.

I remember that during the post-9/11 Afghanistan conflict, Taliban were more than once caught travelling in large columns of military vehicles out in the open, at night, with all their headlights on. Anyone who had watched the first Gulf War on CNN would have known they should never do that. In one case, an entire column of Taliban forces were wiped out in this manner... and another followed along right after, doing the exact same thing, and meeting the exact same fate.

Clearly, cutting off your subordinates from outside information may sound like a great propaganda tool, but it often leaves them fatally ignorant. The above case is merely a particularly stark example of this syndrome.

January 22, 2006 6:24 PM  
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