Post by Minna Krejci
A few weeks ago, Discover’s Science Not Fiction blog explored the hidden message in Pixar’s films:
“The message hidden inside Pixar’s magnificent films is this: humanity does not have a monopoly on personhood. In whatever form non- or super-human intelligence takes, it will need brave souls on both sides to defend what is right. If we can live up to this burden, humanity and the world we live in will be better for it.” –Kyle Munkittrick on Science Not Fiction
One of the Pixar examples given as evidence was The Incredibles, which shows how human enhancement to beyond the human norm can lead to revulsion and alienation reactions. The lesson, according to Munkittrick: “…human enhancement does not make you inhuman – the choices you make and the way you treat others determines how human you really are.”
We’ve always been interested in ways to improve our minds, bodies, or abilities. But what happens as new technologies increasingly allow us to push the limits of our abilities to beyond what is “normal” for our species? Do we limit human enhancement for fear of “enhanced” individuals acquiring an unfair advantage (in work, school, politics, athetics, etc.)? Do we avoid regulation to retain our personal freedoms and rights to improve our own minds, bodies, and lives?
In a report funded by the National Science Foundation, the Human Enhancement Ethics Group discussed these kinds of issues in the form of 25 questions and answers regarding the ethics of human enhancement. I recommend taking a look — it’s an interesting and relevant read, considering that we are already seeing these kinds of debates with respect to cognitive-enhancing and performance-enhancing drugs. Is it ok for students diagnosed with ADHD to take stimulants to correct the “attention deficit,” but not ok for otherwise-normal students to take stimulants to help them focus better when studying for exams? Where do you draw the line between what supplements/drugs athletes can and can’t take to improve their performance?
It sounds like we’ve got a lot of “why does he get one and I don’t” and “why can’t I use it just because she doesn’t have one” to look forward to…