Heads up, party people! Rebecca Taylor and I will soon be recording another episode of BioTalk this weekend. This time we’ll be talking about transhumanism. We decided on this topic after coming across a recent Wired article suggesting that Lance Armstrong, who recently admitted to doping for much of his cycling career, should be “celebrated as a pioneer in human enhancement.” Andy Miah writes:
Why on earth should we make a fuss about doping technologies that make athletes perform better? This is the purpose of their activity. “But, it’s unfair!” I hear you cry. So, make it legal. Give everyone the same chance to use it and then let us focus on monitoring the risks. It will be easier, since the substances and techniques will be known — best practices for optimising doping will even be published….
Instead of a World Anti-Doping Agency to police the cheating athletes, we need a World Pro-Doping Agency to help invest more money into developing safer forms of enhancement. This agency would publish a list of permitted enhancements, rather banned ones. It would allow individuals who were not born with the physiological tendencies of the self-selecting elite athlete population to use technology to become competitive, not just in sport, but in any career where biology matters — and some would say that this is all of them.
Rebecca has already responded to Miah’s piece in an article of her own. Consider it a little sneak peak at our next episode:
Unfortunately, the Wired tribute to Armstrong trots out the typical transhumanist claims that these kinds of enhancements will be available to everyone. As Miah urges, “Give everyone the same chance to use it and then let us focus on monitoring the risks.”
Except not “everyone” will have access. To lower classes in the developed countries or those in abject poverty in the third world, those augmentations for “everyone” will remain out of reach.
Miah also makes the well-worn fallacious argument that all of us are already “enhanced” because we have fluoridated water and get vaccinations. Since you are already “enhanced,” why not try this cognitive enhancing drug, or get yourself a cyber-brain in a fanny pack, or even chop off your perfectly good limb and replace it with a bionic one?
A lot of people fall for what I call the “transhumanist trap” because they cannot see that immunity and strong teeth are natural body responses to environmental stimuli. Natural is not what transhumanism is about. Transhumanists want to go beyond natural to things nature could never accomplish on her own.
What do you make of all this? Do you have any questions about transhumanism that you’d like us to cover? Please leave a comment here and let us know.