Sunday, June 17, 2012

Are you a transhumanist?


Once more the issue of trans-humanism, but now there is a more pressing topic: according to bio-ethicist Kyle Munkittrick:
Many of us have one or two political issues surrounding our bodies that get us fired up. Many of you reading this right now probably have some hot-button issue on your mind. Maybe it’s abortion, or recreational drug usage, or marriage rights, or surrogate pregnancy, or assisted suicide, or sex work, or voluntary amputation, or gender reassignment surgery.
For each of these issues, there are four words that define our belief about our rights, “My body, my choice.” How you react to those words determine which side of any of those debates you are on. Munkittrick enumerates 3 principles:
  1. “My body, my choice” means that if what you do only affects your body, you should have the right to do it. Period, full stop.
    That includes allowing someone to do something to your body. So:
  2. If you want to have something done to your body (e.g. surgery to modify your body or to allow a person to pay you to do something with your body), then you should have the right to do that.
  3. If you don’t want something to happen to your body (e.g. for your body to become pregnant or for it to be kept working at all costs (both in terms of money and dignity), then you should have that right as well.
Let's problematize a bit: 1-3 clashes with many tenets of institutional religion. Then, some will object on the grounds of the peril of changing human biology in the face of incomplete knowledge. In other words, we have anthropocentrism at odds with biocentrism. In other words, a bit of caution can help here. Thomas Henry Huxley noted in 1888 in The Struggle for Existence in Human Society:
It is an error to imagine that evolution signifies a constant tendency to increased perfection. That process undoubtedly involves a constant remodeling of the organism in adaptation to new conditions; but it depends on the nature of those conditions whether the directions of the modifications effected shall be upward or downward.
Is transhumanism aware of this sort of unpredictability of nature?*
  
Munkkitrick calls his allies: Transhumanists, liberal bioethicists, feminists, marriage rights proponents, sex worker advocates, drug abolitionists, libertarians, and the LGBT community. All fighting for what he calls "our somatic rights."

What are your thoughts?

I'll close this post this saturday at 11pm.
______________
* Nassim Taleb calls it "black swan".  ** For more information take a look at this site on emerging technologies.

24 comments:

Marcel said...

First of all, I want to thank you Professor Triff for such topic. In my opinion, Religion is a sufficient condition for trans-humanism. Take religion out of the picture and we wouldn’t even be talking about this! Every single point made on this post is grounded in a religious view, based on a two thousands old book. Greeks, one of the most successful culture at every level in knowledge, was completely detached at what we have today as trans humanisms issues, basically because their issues were concerned to breakthroughs in technology, understanding the nature of their surroundings; in other words, enriching their knowledge. And right after the fall of the Roman Empire, we sank in what is known today as the Dark Age. And indeed it was dark, even thousands of years later; we are still suffering the damage. How are we suffering? Well, stopping a woman from abortion even though she has been raped and because a book says so, she must conceive the rapist’s child. We are suffering when we stop two persons of the same sex who love each other to marry. Also when a government—in the name of GOD—bans a law, which allows scientists to manipulate STEM cells aiming cures for lethal human diseases. We just suffer when someone else decide for each one us what to do with our own body. Our pain since this monotheist religion took over has been fading though. It is true that we stopped hanging, burning, drowning people for suspicious implications with the Evil—Thanks god! It is also true that Science has made VERY clear that we must get out of the box to increase our knowledge.

As other posts, which I put them under the microscope and dissected them, I can’t do it with this one. This is beyond reason. We can’t argue against religion because religion itself has an ultimate argument, and that one is God who is mighty and limitless.

Anonymous said...

meisel vera

I completely agree with Marcel. It is very true that in some form our government has increased our field in order for us to do “what we like” , but it isn’t quite so. For example as Marcel mentioned our lifes our being prosecuted by all these laws created by people are that “above” us but truly they are just like us. Everyone has different moral standing and values therefore no one should decide upon our decisions. It is our choices and it will obviously be our consequences. Also regarding surgeries the pressure pressed upon younger generations to look “perfect” is very harsh how eight year old girls are dieting and eighteen years old are getting breast augmentation to fit into the norms of this community; which shouldn’t be so because everyone is different that’s what makes us an individual. As the years go by we are looking more and more alike. I believe everyone should have their own set of values and morals. And shouldn’t be frowned upon for doing what is believed for the best as an individual themselves.

Sean Boisselle said...

Marcel, it is interesting what you mention about the greeks, regarding religion. Religion seems to be a double-sided sword at times. Without religion, we probably would have never heard of many of the great greek works or philosophers. It was the monks of the Christian faith, with their intense desire for learning and their unflinching discipline, who preserved and translated many of the great works of antiquity. I believe we owe them that much respect, at least. Similarly, the Muslim world made tremendous contributions to the mathematics and the many of the sciences. In essence, we cannot blame belief systems, only the men who hold the belief systems. The beliefs themselves may or may not be consequential.

On the topic of whether transhumanism is aware of the unpredictability of d/evolution... I would say that the very nature of transhumanism rests its hope on upward mobility and increased perfection. Who, in their right mind, does not want to be immortal, have great strength, great intelligence?

If man does evolve into the type of cyborg, the it is possible the beings of superior intelligence and strength could easily regard flesh humans as the most wasteful sentience on the planet. This could be a crime in a world where resources are proportional to survival. Humanity, in general, over the course of only the last century, has used their "evolutionary advantage" of intelligence to create a weapon that is capable of destroying earth and most life on it. The nuclear bomb. They have also made sure there are over 400 dead zones in the earth's waters. Indeed, humans seem to be evolving so much that they could quite possibly be catalyzing a major devolution or extinction of their kind... an interesting paradox.

Another possibility is that cyborgs completely replace humans, and perhaps all of their memory chips fail. Who will be there to replace them?

Perhaps one day, cyborgs the world over will debate whether they were created by man or if they were a product of random parts coming together under right magnetic circumstances.

Marcel said...

By far, religion is the greatest mistake committed by humankind. The bible, the coran, the torah, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Catholics; have taken more lives than have saved. A way more.

Hafsa Hussain said...

I also agree with Marcel; he makes a very good point. Religion has indeed been dictating our choices and oftentimes interferes with our choices and of course politics and our surroundings constantly bombard us with the “word of God” and what is “right” and “wrong” according to one scripture or another. I agree with statement number 1, “my body, my choice.” Let’s take into consideration the issue of abortion. When a woman chooses to abort a child, she has clearly weighed out the pros and cons (of course, we can argue that a few do not but generally speaking, they do). It is difficult enough to come upon such a decision without the interference of others, including politics, to decide for HER what she should or should not do. And in the case that she chooses to abort a child and is forced to keep the baby, she has to deal with more emotional issues. If she were to care for the baby, she will not do so wholeheartedly, as the guilt will always be there and perhaps regret (which in turn will lead to more issues for not only the mother but the child as well). If she decides to put the baby up for abortion, once again she will have guilt for giving away her biological child as well as regret. Those who are pro-life and/or religious individuals may argue that the woman will have regret and guilt from aborting the child and with this I agree; of course she will but it is worse to have the freedom of choice taken away and deal with such emotions than to have a choice and dealing with them.

Yet even when our freedom seems to be restricted, we still find a way. For example, even though drugs are illegal, people still find a way to obtain them. So instead of restricting our rights, we all should face the truth that as human beings we are inclined to have that thirst for freedom of choice especially when it comes to our bodies and we do go beyond bounds to obtain it.

Arlene said...

One thing I know for sure is society cannot avoid the inevitable, change. The world has changed & evolved in most aspects of our lives. We now have gay churches, sciencetology, non-denominational and so forth, why? Young people are getting away from traditional knowledge and way of thinking. Acceptance, without question or judging is the politically correct way to go, look at the reality shows (16 & Pregnant; Bad Girls; The bachlor/Bachlorette. It seems that despite our best efforts, scientific breakthroughs,education and skills, humans still seek spiritual guidance of some sort. Is it an addiction, a need to be validated or approved by a higher power. Do we always need something or someone to validate our choices? Why do we believe them? The bottom line is we don't trust ourselves, we don't trust the choice of other humans, so why not make a nonhuman (robot, computer, Media TV Radio) think for us, make the right choices: IRobot, EHarmony, free flowing drug ads on mass media.

Arlene said...

In response to Marcel's June 20th post...In support of religion..
Religion gave humans basic moral guidelines that formed responsible societies in some aspect exist today. The United States of America have foundation in religion, philosphy, and great hunches...Even the greatest philosophers followed some respected theologian doctrine. Fanactics and extremist existed then as they exist now but in greater numbers and with more freedom of speech and choice.

Chelsea Cumba said...

Trans-humanism arguments and your beliefs do have a lot of involvement prior to your religion. I do not think it is humanly wrong to adjust your body to the way you would like it to be. For example, girls get breast augmentations every day. they do it to look better. What is wrong with that? You know men like it more than girls do. But now it's wrong for a man to change into a women or vice versa. And honestly the problem in my opinion to "trans-humanism" is the United States. What my issue is is that Europeans seeked residency in North America to have a freedom of choice. Whether it was a freedom of religion or freedom of their sexuality. And now our laws are based on "God we trust." And who is this "God" to choose what is best for us when the option is given to us any ways. And not every one believes in this "God" American Laws are referring to, so that itself will be rebelled against. America has the biggest problems with same sex marriages and abortions but why is one being forced to be a certain way? Homosexuality is not new, its been around since the Greek's early civilization. So I am not against changing your body. It is your choice, not Gods. And if God didn't want this for us, he would not have given us the option to do so.

Shelley Reeder said...

Hello class and Professor Triff,

I am still here in the hospital, the operation is over but there is still much healing to be had; however, that does not mean I am not able to conversate with all of you. I believe everyone has the right to their own body. I myself have had to make major decisions when it comes to my own body in the past few weeks. I agree with Marcel, he makes a very valid point. Suffering does occur as a human race when we stop the marriage of two people because of their gender like Marcel said. I think a new awakening of how we treat ourselves and others and how we take care of each other is on the horizon. I believe such topics as this one that are posted is a sign that we as a group are waking up and rising to a new intellectual level. Religion can cause problems and it can solve problems. I believe that bad things should never be justified with religious beliefs. I also believe that not helping one another is not something that should be justified by religion. The same goes for science.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Herrera
What are my thoughts on transhumanism exactly? To be honest Professor Triff, it took me a couple of times to understand the topic at hand but now I realize now it all has to deal with making choices. In the sense of religion, there tends to be friction about half of the time when it becomes a central topic. In the aspect of abortion we have to see under what circumstances, say for example if for some reason heaven forbid, the woman was raped of was suffering a medical condition, then the woman should have the choice whether or not to carry through with the abortion or to have the child.
The post also mentions marriage rights in which personally I’m for same sex marriage, who are we as humans to deny someone the sanctity of marriage? Marriage to me should be between two consented adults, who truly love each other, whose feelings are genuine regardless of sexual orientation. We shouldn’t blame people for they love as long it follows the premise that I mentioned.
Of course without religion, we wouldn’t be able to have some of the great philosopher and explorers the world had to offer, but today a handful of people tend to go on the extreme on religious views, thus creating dilemma’s which create conflict amongst people, fighting and bickering over a false sense of truth which become lost. With me personally, I am man of faith (Roman Catholic) but I tend to take action and seek to uncover truth to become a better person. I have no problems with others of different faith; I even learn some lessons along the way from others. In the end, if we have the power to make a choice, then we must have clear intentions to carry out with the actions we make.

Anonymous said...

Hey Marcel, this is Andrew. You made some great points with your opinion. The one with the STEM cells reminded me of the tension the church and scientist used to (and most likely still do). I agree with you. Religion is a very strong subject to touch a pond. Science allows us to gain knowledge in order for us to progress in the world. But religion does give a sense of moral guide but only with a clear mind. In the end thou, it is in fact the ultimate arguement.

Anonymous said...

Hey Shelly, its me Andrew. I was wondering were you were in the past few classes and I'm wishing for a speedy recovery for you. Also I agree with with your notion of same sex marriage. People get hurt when we deny them of love just because of orientation. It should be between two consented adults. It doesn't matter if their gay or straight, as long as they trully love each other, let them get hitched! Hope your feeling better and stronger than ever. Cheers!

Tomas Stavel said...

This is a very interesting post indeed, as are the comments. I'm not sure why same sex marriage is in this category since it has nothing to do with what we do to our bodies unlike the case of gay sex, for example. I'm 100% for a person deciding what to do to his/her body if it doesn't influence the lives of others in negative way. I don't mind some one shortening his/her life with cigarette smoke unless they are sitting in the same room with me forcing me to breathe their smoke too. I don't mind how some tattoo their bodies or what plastic surgery or sex-change operation they may undergo. It's their free choice and there is no direct damage to others. It gets a little more complicated with abortion. On one hand, a woman has all the right to decide whether or not she wants to have a child with a drunken rapist and no political or religious system has any right to stop her from her decision. On the other hand, she is killing a living being and needs to take responsibility for her actions as they will bring negative results in the future.

Marcel: I totally agree, religion and the Catholic Church specifically, has the longest, most prestigious track record of murder, torture, tyranny, oppression, and child abuse.

Tomas Stavel said...

P.S.
I would consider adoption before abortion.

Anonymous said...

Annette Alexis....What is wrong with me? The question that most people usually utters when there is a problem or as they see themselves in the mirror. The general population usually tries to seek what is considered the most popular fashion of their time. Each culture is different, but the desire for that particular alternation remains the same. I am not in agreement that you should be able to do whatever with your body. There are always exceptions to the rule, what if there a person that feels there is something wrong with his/her legs and would like to have them amputated, then what? Are you telling me you would approve this operation? Or would you say he/she needs to be evaluated? A woman was perfect size c-cups would like to enlarge to e-cups. Would you say that there is something wrong with her psychologically? Please take in consideration that yes, a human should be able to enhance their quality of life. However, the change should not place the person in danger or create a course to self-destruction. We also need to realize that without regulations human beings aspiration for perfection will go uncheck

Marcel said...

The death of God occurred in Auschwitz.

amado estrada said...

I agree with Sean Boisselle about the contribution of Region to our society in term of knowledge. However, I strongly believe that not political system or religion shouldn’t past over people desires. As the term implied by itself “My body, my choice,” a person has the right to do whatever he/she understands is the best for them. Trans-humanism has another side other than the one of getting more beauty; it is also the only option for those with disability to get back on their own. This video shows what technology can do for us: http://www.insideedition.com/ . As we see in the bills and coins “in God we trust”, it is important to underline that the American Laws are base in the commandments 6 through 10, which basically state how humans should behave in society; no related with god (the first 5 commandments). These commandments states: 6- Thou shall not kill/murder, 7-Thou shall not commit adultery, 8-Thou shall not steal, 9-Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor and 10-Thou shall not covet your neighbor's wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor). Therefore, changing our bodies shouldn’t be wrong for America law system. There are more important issues like hunger and education to which the government should be taking care off. What a person do with its body, is not a government or religion issue. In any case, is his or her own issue.

Anonymous said...

Joshua Jimenez
"One person's freedom ends where another person's freedom begins," and that's it. But certainly the whole social structure has been made as a some sort of panopticon. It's interesting to talk about this topic since it is of vital importance in our time. The points of Marcel are significants and strong enough to make my comment easier. Churches have played the "good" role in our society indoctrinating us to believe what they want, and threatening since remote times the complete realisation of a free man. There are also other apparatus of control, what Michel Foucault called "Dispositif." I am sure Marcel would like to take a look of this great philosopher, since he was homosexual, and lambasted this social cancer that are religions. The school, the prison, or the hospital are examples of historical disciplinary institutions. Our free will is always threaten by the gaze of the others, by society. It is your choice what makes our future, Freedom is what we do with what is done to us, and men and women are always free even in this huge cage we call civilisation. Instead of being banning what we want, governments of the world should be guaranteeing their children have a better education, because is in the rooms where our Macht, our bridge to our freedom is conquered. Those who don't have a good education perish and are alienated in miserable lives. Those who have a good education cannot be fooled my friends, they will always rebel against that panopticon of morality that want him to be a lamb, or another brick in the wall.

Anonymous said...

Ben Tobin

Am I a transhumanist? I believe there is no such thing as life, without death. The fact that life is limited, makes it beautiful. If transhumanism carries the ideal image that human beings should never die and never age (to go to an extreme), then forget that. Yes, that is a bit extreme,but I believe, without death, there is no life.

"But Ben, what if transhumanism extends the average age of humans? Dont you want to live to be 150 years old, rather than 80 or 90?" Wait, 80 or 90 is not enough? What makes life enough for you? Do you think that death, with life, might be a positive thing? What if you could never die? Wouldn't that be awesome? Not in my point of view. Sounds like a headache.

Do I believe people should enjoy the use of artificial joints, pacemakers, and anti-wrinkle cream, suuuure, if they want to. Because I am an American, I have the freedom to make choices today.

Now, like it has been said many times in the blog, the amount of religious influence in decision making. Religion does not sit well with me. I hate looking at the news and seeing killing, raping, and violence... because God told them to. But still, I wake up and end every day with acouple minutes thanking this higher power for all the blessings I have in my life today. So I cannot contradict myself when I discuss religion. It is NO easy matter to discuss and I believe it is 100% personal.

Anonymous said...

Lismerys Perea

It is a well-known fact that we as humans, seem to reject things that we do not yet understand. It could be the fear of change, or even the fear of being limited. The realization that even with all the advances that we have made, and all that we know of our specie and the world around us, that even all these current discoveries are quite minimal compared to what is to be found in the near future. Therefore, simply based on how things keep changing and morphing into new things that we had never believed possible in the past, I can only imagine the endless creations that are yet to come.

I believe that that world is constantly changing and the great possibilities of the future can never truly be known from our today. All we have right now is an idea – a small glimpse. Just of how I am sure that hundreds of years ago somebody would have never imagined a twenty-year old girl to be responding to a blog posting from her Macintosh computer on a topic called “Trans-humanism” to be possible... us now can not truly know or say that something like Trans-humanism, and the belief of such technological advances could not be a part of our reality.

Therefore upon hearing such beliefs that great technological advances can truly change and shape the way in which we humans exist fascinates me. Although I do not fully understand it, I refuse to reject it. I believe that if we were able to truly move towards a direction of genetic engineering, the eradication of diseases, being able to eliminate unnecessary suffering, increase intellectual capacities, achieve space colonization, etc., it would truly be for the betterment of humanity. These changes will obviously reshape the way that we humans interact, or even value life- but who is to say that any of the changes would be for the worst? I am in more ways than less a trans-humanist (if that is the correct way to word it). Although I am Christian and I hold dearly my own personal beliefs and my moral values, I am also open to idea that technological advances should be embraced and not shunned down. There has, and will always be a battle between new radical changes and the conservative teachings of the bibles, but that has not stopped us from moving towards new innovations and it will not stop future generations as well. I am a believer that the belief in God and the belief in science both have a place in society and both serve different purposes for many different people.

...The End :)


....
P.S:

What an interesting topic Professor! Thank you for posting this. I would have never entertained such ideas, or even have had the chance to realize how open I am to trans-humanism if it would have been for this post. Kudos!

Carlos Mora said...

After reading a couple of comments, I have to disagree with what most students in our class believe. I don not think that we have the right to do whatever we want with our bodies. To begin with, I believe in the Divine Command theory. I am not a religious person but I do believe in God. I respect everyone's belief. According to God, it is wrong for same sex marriage. Furthermore, why should you have the right change the way you look. I do believe that if you are not happy with the way you look, you should have "surgery". The problem is that the surgery that should be done is not physical but spiritual and mental. You are only ulgy if you believe you are ugly. How about trying to be more openminded and positve instead of wasting thousands of dollars on surgery. Do you realy think that looking good on the outside will fix the inside? I do not mean to offend anyone. I am just being honest. I myself have been finding out how much of a hypocrit I am to my own beliefs. I am not perfect and understand and accept that I never will be. when it comes to abortion, I definitely believe that it is wrong to have one. Many women and men have sex, party, end up with an unplanned pregnancy and then run away from the problem. For that reason, they have the argument that says that it is right to have an abortion. I myself have six children. They were not planned, I was just stupid and immature and did not realize what a responsibility I would have for the rest of my life. I could have told my ex wife to have many abortions. Istaed, we have found a solution to what I first thought would be the end of my life. On the contrary, we proplematized the situation and asked many questions and came up with the best possible solution to this problem. As a result, I have gained more wisdom. many people always follow the band wagon. Marcel, you should be more openminded and not target religion so hard. It gives people morals as opposed to morals that television and adds try to give you.

Anonymous said...

Edmunds Bernard


I do believe in live and let live. I am not sure how I feel about the gov’t interfering with what an individual wants to do with his or her body. However the stronger resistance tends always to come from the masses. The “norm” seems always to be protected even by so-called liberals. The funny thing is for many people including myself who have face oppression or regulation counter to what the “norm” Is – amazing creativity has spawned --- the Catholic church has been the source for many deaths but also the source or inspiration for great art including this class that we ….. the world needs a little push and pull we are a young planet/species and we have a lot to learn.

Frantz Cayo said...

I believe that every human beings should have the rights to choose or decide what to do with their lives.After all, this is your life, you might as well enjoy it.I have seen some people doing things to their body(e.g.plastic surgery)or make some choices in life that are not aligned with my faith and sometimes I even think that are immoral.However,I have still have to go along with their choices.As a liberal,we (as human beings)should have all the rights on hearth to decide what we want to do to our body as long as it doesn't affect anybody else socially and financially.

Michael Perez said...

One can argue that you don't own your body because your parents gave you that body so there is some kind of entitlement or say in the matter. Or that you are not capable of maintaining your body if your ill mentally. Then people will argue if you are in the right state of mind, but what is the right state of mind and can that be written down in paper? Hell what about suicide?

Indeed this matter is complicated because of the legal work it will require to justify what is correct state of mind and if it's really an act of free will or some form of outside pressure. This is why I believe we have laws in place to prevent harm towards oneself. Keyword harm and then we go as to define what harm is. Does donating your hand considered harm if it has been done out of free will?

Freewill I think that's were the problem is.