There’s an essay by Peter Augustine Lawler entitled “The Utopian Eugenics of Our Time” in Perspectives on Political Science that does a good job of cataloging the issues that will impact on human nature in the near future. And he makes the useful point that biological human nature, being the source of our anxieties about change, will undermine our enjoyment of biotechnological advances and perhaps retard radical change, unless we alter human ethical nature dramatically. But then he goes ahead and indicates that this is happening already with psychotropics and agrees that individuals will keep pushing ahead with genetic manipulation. It’s annoying, because he’s trying very hard not be alarmist and be at peace with it all, but the implications of what are supposed to be partially reassuring predictions keep running away from him. Actually, the article is very good, which is why it’s so distressing to perceive that it’s fundamentally in error.
He does throw in a nice formulation about how we will likely have a human future that will cause us to miss our human past. I like the Schismatrix theme better, Life moves in clades.
On a similar note, I have a new thought tool (courtesy of the belle dame).The principle is that if you object to the prospect of some technological or social development, you have to be willing (in theory) to assert your benevolent will over humanity through a global Council of Guardians. Then you must establish specific prohibitions on further human progress. Now, the question is how you and your council will respond to individual abberations.
The first test case is three CS undergraduates who have linked their brains together with coaxial cables. They will die if the cables are disconnected. Failure to act means that within a year the world will see a 50-person wireless “mental network”, with bizarre social transformations thereafter. The upstarts will raise various civil rights and personal autonomy objections. There is a strong case to be made by the establishment side that the groupings violate any concept of “equality”, and that the individuals who dissolve their identities in this way are illegally a)commiting suicide or b)entering into slavery.
But then it’s pointed out that “mental union” would probably be more like a walkie-talkie system for certain frontbrain thought-processes and a shared broadcast of the group’s sensory inputs. So a more advanced test case does not involve the visually frightening (and unrealistic) cables, but a gradual progression from heavy technological social networking behavior to something like a group-mind. Where does the Council step in? Are “bone phones” (Neuromancer) too much? Also thrown into the mix is the fact that religions might be the first to adopt forms of technological communion.