Developments in science and technology are rapidly causing a change in the world around us. Following the immediate changes, various groups of scientists, futurists, ethicists, and philosophers, labeled transhumanists are plotting a new direction of humanity. The transhumanist ideas were only conceived in previous generations; however, with the developments in science, the preconceived notions are becoming achievable and real. If the prognostications of transhumanist are feasible, they signal an end of the existence of the human race with a possible post-human future in the wait. Transhumanists are proposing a technology that will enhance humanity overall, or at least the intelligent part of humanity. The takeover by technology and constant replication threatens to dissolve the current stage of understanding. However, if the transhumanist’s approach is feasible, humans will crave to cease existing in their current feeble state and embrace the progressive technologies proposed by Trans human idealists.
Living in a world influenced by technological developments, our view of what it means to be human is gradually evolving. These developments together with insights from people outside academics, people are beginning to perceive the reality of ideas previously presented in science fiction and utopic literature in the previous century. The development of transhumanism and posthumanism movements has led to increased interests from academic and non-academic proponents who seek to understand the ideas of enhancing human nature. The progress in fields like artificial insemination, biotechnology, computer science, neuroscience, robotics, and molecular biology have made it possible to strengthen humanity (“Ethical Issues In Human Enhancement”). However, these developments have become the center of the crisis surrounding the human future, the present, and the past. These developments introduce interesting topics that require address before some technologies are incorporated to become part of human life and reality.
This paper critically analyzes the transhumanist philosophy and its influence on biotechnology. To begin with, I will outline transhumanism and suggesting crucial inputs of the transhumanists’ philosophical movement and its contributions to the long-standing debate on the ethics of human enhancement. This paper focuses on the works of prominent thinkers Nick Bostrom and scientist Julian Savulescu. This article calls to attention the two main issues emerging from transhumanist thinking specifically relating to enhancement- the transcendence of embodiment and second, the selection of stigmatized and undesirable traits linked with specific disability. This debate invites the contributions of proponents from different fields interested in the discussion around human and technology. It welcomes contributions from historians, ethicist, engineers, journalists, biologists, computer scientists, theologians, economists, and everyone with particular interests on the debate about transhumanism.
Bostrom describes transhumanism as a movement that focuses on the development and potential achievements of evolving technology and the possibilities of enhancing the existing human capabilities. It encompasses the applied ethics with practical implications of technology and possible application in the future to improve human life. The Transhumanist Declaration, the foundation of the World Transhumanists Association, recognizes that science and technology possess the power to influence human being in such a fundamental way that would redesign human nature (Savulescu et al.). Transhumanist is optimistic that although new technologies in developing robotics, genetics, and nanotechnology are risky, they have the potential of improving human life. They argue for inclusion and embracement opposed to the dismissal on the grounds of technophobia. Technology has the potential to influence life suspension techniques, reproductive technology, improve cognition, as well as anti-aging techniques. Scientists are optimistic that they can effectively use technology to extend their mental and physical capacities and ultimately enhance control over human life. Transhumanists are motivated by the pursuit to attain personal growth beyond the existing biological capabilities. Proponents argue that technology has the potential to improve human suffering and enhance human capacities.
Julian Savulescu, the chief editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics and the director of the Oxford Uehara Centre for Practical Ethics, formulates his arguments around moral urgency (Savulescu et al.). He suggests that human must find innovative ways to enhance himself or herself or risk extinction because of pure clumsiness. He argues that parents have the responsibility of selecting the future characteristics of their offspring. The primary purpose of selective reproduction is to secure greater fulfillment in life, happiness, and freedom. Choosing the desirable traits in the offspring generation increases the likelihood of achieving the best experiences. This proposal reluctantly permits selective abortion if undesirable characteristics are identified through pre-natal examination. New technology has enabled vitro fertilization (IVF) and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) (Savulescu et al.). The author argues for pre-implantation genetics diagnosis citing psychological reasons.
Savulescu suggests that enhancing human can be achieved through selective reproduction by playing the Wheel of Fortune to increase chances of siring children with improving characteristics. This argument overlooks the possible gaps in weak links between genotypes, which can influence the quality of later life. Most parents would prefer children with higher cognitive abilities, a factor he considers essential in enhancing human life. Parents can also select specific health characteristics such as asthmatic conditions, short temper, among other traits that have a significant influence on the quality of life (Samuelson). Savulescu recognizes the impact of social factors such as the preference for male children. This can be achieved by selecting embryos based on their gender. However, he argues that this method cannot be used to obtain equality and justice, aspects that require long periods to achieve. He further suggests that these social=political aspects need several generations to realize tangible progress (Savulescu et al.). The disparities evidenced in the world’s population further complicate the issues around long-term objectives. However, he is cynical that extreme gender disparity and other pertinent social aspects can influence the moral obligations of a generation. He further argues for eugenic genetic selection as the best method to enhance human nature. He emphasizes the sense of freedom and procreative liberty compete with the responsibilities of procreative beneficence by selecting the most admirable character in the offspring generations. Selective reproduction, further enhanced by technology can reduce the incidences of disability, one of the traits considered undesirable. This method can alleviate the guilt for the morally conscientious.
Sevalescu’s proposition has not escaped without criticism from women and persons with a disability against the concept of procreative beneficence. The critics argue against selective abortion against undesirable traits such as disability because it eliminates social beings and values. Criticism has emerged over the calls for removing the limitation. Viewing it from a procreative beneficence perspective, one would argue against Sevalescu’s propositions as a call for the cleansing from the social disability. The proposal is criticized for trying to neutralize disability through decision-making opportunities provided in genetic selection. Christine Overall arguing for the feminist society further criticizes Sevalescu’s approach for failing to recognize the women who receive the IVF treatments that form the principle of procreative beneficence. She more also criticizes this approach for more significant impacts on women compared to men because it places the mother in the position of recipients. Overall argues that the high-risk procedures and experiments pose potentially harmful risks on the mother and the child. She adds that the pre-implantation diagnosis as a process is cost intensive besides becoming ineffective as women age. She argues that this approach alone cannot guarantee success in enhancing the lives of future children.
Overall further argues against Sevalescu’s proposition on the feminist front claiming that the male preference notion is not easy to justify. She proposes an approach against the individual preference for male children that assumes a sexist position. She is critical of the social practice of sex selection (Samuelson). Contrasting to Sevalescu’s approach based on moral obligations that dominate individual choices, she argues on the grounds of a stigmatizing practice to the mothers. Overall focuses her attention on the ideals of preference against undesirable characteristics, which paints a more discriminative perception against the disabled. She also makes it clear that such adverse genetic selection can cultivate negative social beliefs that can lead to a cleansing obsession. She questions the morality of proponents in adopting such discriminative and stigmatizing social practices.
Bostrom just like Savulescu writes about a promising future of increased happiness. In other words, the future is more fulfilling and holds numerous pleasures. Bostrom argues that it is morally and politically fair if we focus and invest in enhancement technology. His argument is informed by increased opportunities and unlimited potential of intellectual capacity. Bostrom argues because the opportunity ranges of the posthuman are more significant than the opportunity range of a living being, it is justifiable to invest in enhancing human nature.
Bostrom’s post-human arguments lie in the potential greater fulfillment in the future generation that is entirely unknown to the present generation. He portrays the future life as a better and fulfilling characterized by greater pleasure, which is worth the investment. Boston argument offers hope for a brighter next moment and manages to invoke a utopia. Bostrom proposes a bright future filled with intense joy overlooking the influence of suffering and stress situations.
“Ethical Issues In Human Enhancement”. Nickbostrom.Com, 2008, https://nickbostrom.com/ethics/human-enhancement.html.
Samuelson, Hava Tirosh-. “Engaging Transhumanism: The Meaning Of Being Human”. Metanexus, 2008, https://www.metanexus.net/engaging-transhumanism-meaning-being-human/.
Savulescu, Julian et al. “The Ethics Of Human Enhancement: Understanding The Debate // Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // University Of Notre Dame”. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2016, https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/the-ethics-of-human-enhancement-understanding-the-debate/.