During the London 2012 Games, the Wellcome Trust gallery has held its ‘Superhuman’ exhibition, to which I contributed. It’s a great exhibition – effectively my whole academic life in a few rooms – and it’s on until 16 October (day after my birthday). It’s also got some of the content online, including a floating head interview with me, along with people I’ve worked with in the past: Anders Sandberg, Julian Savulescu, John Harris, Bennett Foddy, and Barbara Sahakian.
From 28-30 October, I’ll be speaking at the Battle of Ideas in London. I’ll take part in two sessions, both broadly focused on the ethics of biological modification. The first is on Saturday and are titled ‘Designer people: is technology making us less human?’ (Sun, 1230pm, Lecture Theatre 1) and ‘Smart Drugs: Magic Bullet or Cheating Ourselves?’ (Sun, 345pm, Lecture Theatre 1)
In Octubre, estare hablar sobre deporte, ética y derecho en Barcelona por el Universidad Pomeu Fabra. Es un conferencia en la escula de derecho y abajo tiene la programa. Within my talk, I will weave in themes about democracy, freedom and the good life…
An interview with Wired about the use of functional surgery to increase the resilience of fighters.
On Tuesday 26th, I gave an opening address to the Seeking Perfection event hosted by #msf2010 and co-funded by Wellcome and Nowgen. The evening was spent hearing from speakers about ways of altering humanity, along with a performance piece from young people, dramatizing the possible future where human enhancement is part of our culture in a more significant way. Here are some photographs from the event, along with my slides.
My latest press clipping is in the BBC Focus lead feature on ‘Superhuman’, which runs in the May edition. Check it out for some great visuals and ideas.
I’ll be speaking here next week on: Mashing-Up Computing & Biology: From Digital Bodies to Enhanced Humans
“This presentation discusses the emerging era of human enhancement as an interface between cultures of computing and biology. It argues how the future of humanity will depend largely on its ability to accumulate biocultural capital, while faced with the environmental imperative to ensure sustainable adaptation.”
Brussels, May 2008.
Human Enhancement 1
Ethiques et conduits dopantes 1
Patrick Laure, Universite Paris XI-Orsay 1
Ethiques et conduits dopantes
Patrick Laure, Universite Paris XI-Orsay
Sense des couduites dopantes
Durkheim ‘le suicide’
Intentions of anti-doping:
Guarantee ethics of sport
Le corps rationnel du sport de haut niveau: ambivalences du depassment de soi
Get the Nature reference from Alex
Genetic Enhancement: ethical questions
Distinctions between therapy
somatic vs germ line
tyranny of the normal
consider how people want to recreat themselves
should state decide?
Objection from open future
Offspring could claim to have been harmed by not being enhanced
- recent research (REQUEST REF – DANISH STUDY)
- big daily variations
- so no point mapping
- other substances might activate epo receptor
- cannot test for all possible others
- epo increases red cells mass, but decreases blood plasma, so overall mass unchanged, so no blod clots
postponing motherhood good for society
ME: feminist criticism is that women must change. Why not male pregnancy?
Gene doping plan might collide with genetic technology
Presentation given 15 mins ago on human enhancement technologies….
and some photos from the event..
and some notes too…
Martinjntje Smits, Ratheneau
What is new about human enhancement
Case by case
Human Enhancement: A Reasoned Restrictive or (Cautionary Permissive?) Approach
HE under the idea of Public Reason
- HE: poltical not metaphysical
- Improving t human condition not
- Equality, freedom and integrity of individuals as public goods
- Framework for justice as fairness in health issues (Rawls, Daniels)
Principle of respect
-in a cooperative society, reasonable individuals woul agree..treat others with respect
5 principles fundamental for our self respect and mutual cooperation
- recognizably human body
- naturally unrestricted desire
- complex theoretical and practical rationality
- freedom of the will
- equal dignity
- does not intentionally disfigure human body
- does not intentionally restrict width of human desire
- does not intentionally impair t ex of human rationality
- does not impede t human ability to choose freely
- does not violate equal dignity of indivs ie does not generate discrimination or unfairness
-what should be europe’s goals?
- not passively following trajectory defined by most powerful technology actors
- techno-moral learning
- what morals, what technology?
Accept contingency: in a technological world, fewer natural givens
Local experimentation, global evaluation
Issues to regulate
- should be reversible
- HUMAN ENHANCEMENTS values and negative freedom
- Gap between blue-print-technology and technology-in-practce (unexpected)
- Political and ethical
- Moratoria rather than absolute bans
- stimulate techno-moral imagination by providing rich descriptions – need morality fiction not science fiction
- what is god life, etc
organize deliberative forums
epidemic of accountability issues on the horizon
defining a good society is in the end a political issue
communicate diverging positions widely
value lasting diversity
Hans - Mr Buscani’s assistant
Questions & Answers
Q: Why are we still discussing enhancement in such broad terms
Q: Recognizable body necessary?
Q: NSF and DoC in USA – first workshop on this – used term ‘launch and learn’ (conservative politican), recommendation was to advise US government asked professors in humanities and sciences to spend time on the issue – and in schools too – how balance it compared to this politics in USA?
- lots of political issues
- developing technology for enhancement, rather than just for therapy
Tsjalling: neoliberal agenda behind enhancement debate – need more social perspective on converging technologies including enhancements. Do we really want to make people more compassionate, or greedy?
4 march – science in developing countries
Anders: public opinion in Sweden – many people accept enhancement to help others, though low for self-enhancement.
Is there a red line, beyond which we should not fund.
Is there a tool box?
Are there distinct European values
Framework of public policy, not defining human nature
Values that protect good of mutual cooperation
Job is to remove discriminating practices not just alter the circumstances.
Danish Council of Ethics: case of lorry driver – might be an argument in favour of necessity to discuss different specifics – lorry driver, main problem is that the brain chip means that others would have to have it too.
ME: but we stipulate how many hours people can work, so this becomes an issue of regulating working conditions.
Danish Coucil on Ethics – subcommittee on human enhancement – invited to a conerence held by Danish Union of Optometrists since new technology in USA related to fight against terrorism has made it possible to make implants thinner, giving ability to look through things.
Anders: values important, but also need facts to make important facts – many forms of enhancement becoming realities, but limited knowledge – eg. cognition enhancement – prevalent among higher academics – is a paper written under influence of modafinil worse? – need to research ecological properties – need efficacy and saety
Antonio: medicalization and enhancement are beyond traditional politics – this morning – obesity gene in newspaper – concern will lead to individualization of probles – haven’t heard much about corporate interests – in US direct to consumer influences perceptions of normality – media role in shaping social needs
Marshall, NTL: human dignity –should it be so important that we know what this is, isn’t it more important that individuals make this decision for him/herself –not all social pressure is bad
Chair: I’m deciding dignity, but are you? It’s dependent on how others react to me.
ME: but my conception of dignity is shaped by our common laws at least.
Marshall: but a man should be free
Roberto: yes, you have given an idea of dignity
Tsjalling: don’t think there is hope for red line in the sand. General principles is that past experience doesn’t necessarily guide us. – lorry driver – new technology shifts responsibilities – before it, we consider whether chair is too comfy, or working too much?
Roberto: overlapping consensus
Reverent from NL: human nature is relevant.
Jordi (MEP): Case by case approach with minimum standards
Chair: what if we create a working group, how create connections with citizens? Or should it be done by emmberstates?
Jordi: it is possible, we have an ethical board already. This q needs a broader discussion. Red line says taboo, but before red line, case by case approach, wth discsussion – want to allow pursuit of happiness, not make them happy (US constitution). What is able to make us all happier.
Chair: EU level committee.
Francois , EU: keep in mind dual dimension – enhancement of soldiers.
Jordi: or for disabled people.
Political scientist in Vienna: governance question – who is setting the agenda – citizen conferences in Denmark – who is framing the problem – is it really participatiory/deliberative/representative?
Should form a council where everyone is amateur
Peter, Free Uni of Brussels:
It also should not contribute to its criminalization through policy making.
Jordi: health literacy is EP buzzword.
Malcolm Harbour: need broader platform, engagement and citizen participation. At last workshop was about converging technologies. Had some debate about transhumanism. Our role is to inform politicians here and to get them engaged. Other is about global reach and issues – in Europe – eg. stem cell research – we do not have homogenous research. In UK and others, set up own bodies and practices, to approve work around genome. Though many regard UK as dangerously liberal. Human dignity and quality of life issues. One of biggest challenges on human dignity and old age – fact that already significantly prolonged life expectancy at a rate faster than any other decade – what this means for society as a whole – if elderly people can stay at home and live in domestic environment on own, this is a major enhancement of their dignity and their quality of life. European elections on 4 june in uk and vote.
Just published a new position piece for the Hastings Center online environment, Bioethics Forum:
Friday, June 6, 2008
Oscar Pistorius was right all along, at least for now. He was right to appeal the ruling from the International Association of Athletics Federations that forbade him from competing alongside Olympians in Beijing for one simple reason: he is an Olympian.
Pistorius is the South-African-born, double below-the-knee amputee who has spent the last year campaigning for his right to compete as an Olympic athlete rather than as a Paralympian in Beijing later this year. The Beijing Games would be the first Olympics where such integration has taken place. His initial request to the IAAF was turned down, but last week his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport was upheld.
The dispute over his entitlement centers on the particular properties of his Cheetah Flex-Foot, a device that has been in use by athletes since 1997. To date, Pistorius’s career has been extraordinary. In Athens 2004, he won Olympic Gold in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, and he is currently the Paralympian world-record-holder for 100, 200, and 400-meter events. Over the years, his times have slowly crept down, and they are now at a point where they rival those of able-bodied athletes. This has been noticed by the international athletic community.
In 2007, the IAAF introduced an amendment to its rules, requiring that any device used by an athlete must not provide an advantage over other athletes who do not have the device. This is one of the key sticking points in the legal entanglement that the IAAF and Pistorius have encountered. The Court of Arbitration found that this rule appeared to have been introduced with Pistorius in mind and so considered the appeal both on grounds of technical advantage and on discriminatory grounds. Nevertheless, the evidence focused on the biomechanical and physiological measures: Is Pistorius’s stride length longer? Does he have less of a build-up of lactate acid within his legs? Does his VO2 consumption differ?
The burden of proof rested with the IAAF to show that, on the balance of probability, such an advantage exists. To this end, the court concluded that there was no evidence to support the claim that the Flex-Foot provides an advantage over able-bodied athletes. In any case, the IAAF has intimated that Pistorius should remain focused on the Paralympics rather than the Olympics. Why?
The Paralympics is the product of a particular era of disability rights activism. Yet its separation from the Olympics is morally suspect, and the new era of bionic prosthetic devices will make an important contribution to revealing this dubious segregation. This is not to diminish the social significance of the Paralympics. It continues to make an important contribution to the visibility of disability rights that far extends the value of what happens on the competition field. However, in deciding Pistorius’ future and others like him who will follow – and they will follow – we must distinguish between the merit of the Paralympic movement and the logic of sports contests.
Despite the weak evidence, the objection to letting Pistorius compete in the Olympics is that he has a particular type of unfair advantage that is objectionable partly because it transforms the activity into something else. Pistorius’s prosthetic legs, according to this view, transform the activity of running in such a way that it does not make sense to compare his performance with that of people running on home-grown legs, so to speak. This view leads some critics to throw up their hands and declare that we must create a new category of bionic athletic competitions, to ensure we are not racing apples with oranges. The problem with this argument is that we already have this contest; it is called the Paralympic Games.
In any case, what if the legs are providing an advantage over other competitors? Does this make it unfair? Even within the category of able-bodied sport, there are vast differences of technological enablement at work and these are only likely to grow. To this end, maintaining fairness is increasingly a conviction of faith, rather than a condition that can be achieved within elite sports competition. Moreover, each individual athlete will become more strategic in finding their technology of choice in what has already become a contest of technology and biology.
In any case, as I intimated earlier, deciding whether Pistorius should compete as an Olympian or a Paralympian is not just a problem of apples and oranges. Rather, exposing the injustice of segregation should be our primary moral concern and its significance far exceeds that of ensuring fairness to able-bodied athletes. The question we should be asking is not whether Paralympians should compete at the Olympics, but why they are separate in the first place. There is nothing within the Olympic Charter that justifies the separation of these two sets of competitions.
The Olympic ideals of “excellence,” “fair play” and “celebrating humanity” apply in equal measure to both Paralympic and Olympic games. Moreover, a quick glance at the operational budget of the next few games shows that the Paralympics have not been enabled to capture the attention of international audiences in the way that is enjoyed by the Olympic Games. Allowing Paralympians to compete as Olympians would advance the cause of disabled athletes by at least fifty years. It would also reinforce the value of physical difference within a society that has steadily aspired to increasingly narrow ideals of physical and aesthetic ideals.
We cannot assume, however, that the emerging era of the bionic athlete will work out well for disabled people. While new technologies might provide modifications that will exceed the capabilities of so-called able-bodied athletes, subsequent innovations might be available to these athletes that can reconstitute the boundaries of comparison even further. Consider the prospect of stronger tendons, the use of laser eye surgery, and even elective surgical interventions designed to strengthen the body.
Even today, it’s not clear what’s best for Pistorius. For instance, if he makes it to the Olympic finals this year and comes last, will he – and should he – value this more than breaking the Paralympic world record and winning Paralympic golds? This is no easy trade-off.
Some years in the future, this issue will rear its head again when able-bodied athletes become synthetically enhanced to such a degree as to make them, once again, competitive against the hard prosthesis that Pistorius enjoys. We thought the ethics of doping was difficult? It’s all about to get much more complicated. However, there will be one crucial difference between how the world of sport treats this bionic future compared with that of performance-enhancing drugs. I doubt very much that we’ll hear the rhetoric of futuristic “freak shows” and so on when discussing how prosthetic devices change the capacities of people with disabilities. This common, though unreasonable assault on doped athletes has been advanced from various critics of doping practices, including Wildor Hollmann, president of the World Federation of Sports Physicians in 1984 and recently departed World Anti-Doping Agency President Dick Pound (2004).1 I wonder how they will characterize the athletes of this new era of bionic prostheses.
1. J. Hoberman, Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping (University of California Press, 2006), p. 192; R. Pound, “An Olympian Test of Our Morality,” Financial Times (London), August 9, 2004, p. 17.
Page 1 Show More Post2 Posts left