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Appleyard on H+

Posted by Pete Shanks on October 22nd, 2008

How to Live Forever or Die Trying by Brian Appleyard

Brian Appleyard has also blogged about the "new" transhumanism and H+:

"In the midst of the current crisis, the idea of humans engineering paradise seems more risible than ever. (Or perhaps we can simply engineer out the gene set that created credit default swaps.)"

Appleyard is a long-time reporter for, among others, the London Sunday Times and author of many books including Brave New Worlds and How to Live Forever or Die Trying.

Previously on Biopolitical Times:

H+ ≈ Humanity+ ≈ Humanity Plus ≈ WTA ≈ Extropy (etc.)

    New US Law Supports Parents of Children with Disabilities

    Posted by Jenna Burton on October 21st, 2008

    A bipartisan bill that both houses of Congress passed overwhelmingly and President Bush signed into law on October 8 will provide comprehensive information and support to pregnant women and new mothers whose fetus or newborn is diagnosed with a disability.

    The Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act was authored by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS). Though he is a staunch opponent of abortion rights, there is no anti-choice language in the Act. One of the bill's co-sponsors is Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), a strong abortion rights supporter.

    An information sheet [PDF] on the Act has been released by CGS's sister organization Generations Ahead, together with World Institute on Disability, National Women's Health Network, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, and Reproductive Health Technologies Project.

    The information sheet:

    • outlines what the Act will do and how it can be implemented effectively
    • acknowledges the disability community's longstanding concern that "pregnant women receive negatively biased information about what it means to have a child with a disability, shaped by negative societal attitudes toward disability"
    • affirms the shared interest of disability advocacy groups and reproductive rights and justice organizations "in pregnant women receiving unbiased, nondirective information about prenatal genetic conditions" and
    • asserts that the Act will benefit the disability community while expanding women's reproductive options.
    Its conclusion: the hope that "with organizations from disability rights as well as reproductive rights and justice at the table, the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Awareness Act has the potential to benefit all of our communities."

    H+ ≈ Humanity+ ≈ Humanity Plus ≈ WTA ≈ Extropy (etc.)

    Posted by Pete Shanks on October 20th, 2008

    H+ Magazine

    The relaunch of the World Transhumanist Association (WTA) stumbles on. They are becoming Humanity Plus, though the new website is still "coming soon." Already here, however, is H+ Magazine, which is "published by Humanity+" [sic] although "not all the views and ideas expressed in this publication are the views of that organization."

    The editor (and main contributor) is RU Sirius, who describes H+ as a "webzine." It's an 18" by 11" pdf, which makes it hard to read on-screen and a real pain to print out. The content is mostly interviews short and long (Aubrey de Grey, the prince of immortality, imagine that) seasoned with a smattering of science and two ads, total, for the Life Extension Foundation and Alcor the world leader in cryonics.

    H+ is full of happy talk. David Ewing Duncan says he agrees with Gregory Stock. Duncan thinks that "this stuff is inevitable. We have the technology now to alter the germ line. ... It's more a matter of figuring out how to do it safely and manage it. ... It's not even a question of if anymore; it's a question of when and how."

    The most interesting section, however, may be the editor's introduction:

    "I tell people I'm working on a transhumanist webzine. ... It's a sort of test. Will anybody ever have a clue as to what I'm talking about? So far, the answer is no."

    Oh dear. Hence, of course, the latest reboot. Extropy didn't catch on, so they tried the WTA, and now Humanity Plus (or +), not to mention the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and its Journal of Evolution and Technology. These are closely overlapping groups of enthusiasts, many of whom got their start while we were all going to get super-rich through the stock market and become Masters of the Universe through our wondrous ability to control immensely complex systems, both economically and biologically.

    Could it be that under present social, economic and political conditions, nationally and internationally, 2008 is not a propitious time to rebrand fantasies from the 1990s?

    Previously on Biopolitical Times:

    Bioethics for Profit?

    Posted by Pete Shanks on October 14th, 2008

    Dollars & Rod of Asclepius

    Glenn McGee "has turned his Bioethics Education Network LLC [BENE] into a for-profit operation." Is there a significant difference between "behaving more and more like for-profit companies" and actually being one?

    BENE is based electronically at, which says it is the "home to the bioethics education network and home to the editorial offices of, The American Journal of Bioethics [AJOB],, and the largest collection of bioethics video in the world." (The suffix ".org" generally implies non-commercial use but that is not mandatory.)

    AJOB is published by Routledge, an imprint of Taylor & Francis Health Sciences (T&F), itself a subsidiary of Informa PLC. The current AJOB front page copyright notice, which is out of date (it refers to 2005 and one of McGee's former employers), assigns the copyright to "Taylor & Francis Group & bioethics education network."

    T&F is a huge business, to which AJOB is presumably unimportant. But AJOB is certainly important to McGee, in whose name the "" and "" domains are registered, and who left his last position under questionable circumstances earlier this year. A cursory web search suggests that BENE itself had turnover of less than $10,000 in Fiscal 2007, but McGee told the local Business Review that he was "trying to build what will become at least a $500,000 business in Albany" and that it might become so big he would have to move to New York City. Presumably this turnover would essentially be from AJOB, though the report is not absolutely clear and he talks of "developing a research division."

    McGee has a history of strong statements about practical ethics, and indeed complained that Advanced Cell Technology was "protecting their intellectual property interest rather than the public interest" after he resigned from their Ethics Board. "Under AJOB's policy," he has said, "editorial conflicts of interest as well as peer reviewer conflicts of interest, including mandatory disclosure of all sources of income by all members of the editorial staff, are regularly subject to review."

    The question now becomes: disclosure to whom, for review by whom, and how and why?

    Does anyone else think that there is something strange about an explicitly for-profit bioethics operation, especially one that is so closely linked to a prominent journal? Could a push for profits lead to slanted publications? Would it increase the likelihood of conflicts of interest? Or at least of the appearance of conflicts of interest?

    "Bioethic$" has been criticized before for close ties to industry. (PENN Medicine, which includes the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics where McGee once ran AJOB, describes itself unblushingly as "a $2.7 billion enterprise.") This is particularly important since one of the driving forces for the development of bioethics over the last generation has been the clearly perceived need for a check against potential abuses in medical research, precisely because it can lead to highly profitable enterprises.

    Compensation in itself is normal, whether in cash or (for interns) in experience. But at what point does profitability become a problem? Is McGee crossing an ethical line here?

    Previously on Biopolitical Times:

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