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About a "Post-Human" Future & Human Biotechnology


Most observers acknowledge that human biotechnologies are likely to create serious challenges for individuals and society. Some people, however, deny or downplay their risks and challenges, and uncritically embrace the dramatic changes they believe human biotechnologies will bring. These enthusiasts tend to oppose public oversight, and to urge the unfettered commercial development of enhancement technologies.

For the past several years, a small but influential network of mainstream scientists, bioethicists, and others has been actively promoting the unfettered development of inheritable genetic modification (changing the genes passed on to future generations) and the expanded use of selection technologies such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Most of them acknowledge that these applications are likely to exacerbate existing inequalities and to create new forms of inequality. They often argue that such developments are inevitable.

"Transhumanists" are a marginal but vocal group of self-described futurists who promote human biotechnologies and other scientific advances as a means to "enhance" physical and cognitive abilities and "transcend" aspects of the human condition such as aging and dying. Their ideas are often seen as a replay of eugenics - the belief that science can and should be used to "breed" people with "superior" qualities.

Some transhumanists want to recast "eugenics" as a positive term, distinguishing their vision from past government-mandated eugenics policies. They are comfortable allowing market forces to shape these technologies and their social impact, arguing that government should have no role in developing, promoting, or regulating human biotechnologies.

Many transhumanists embrace libertarian social and political values, and some have attracted support in more mainstream libertarian circles.



US Science Academies Take on Human-Genome Editing[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Sara ReardonNatureMay 18th, 2015National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine to develop guidelines for rapidly advancing technology to modify human embryos and germ cells.
Francis Collins on CRISPR: "Designer Babies Make Great Hollywood — And Bad Science"by Julia BelluzVoxMay 18th, 2015I called Collins to talk further about the ethical problems CRISPR raises, and why he thinks this genetic editing technique is both hugely promising and, potentially, very dangerous.
National Academies Will Meet to Guide 'Gene Editing' Researchby Lisa M. KriegerSan Jose Mercury NewsMay 18th, 2015The landmark conference will gather researchers and other experts to review and explore the scientific, ethical and social implications of a new practice, which can "cut and paste" gene sequences.
Overcoming Bias: Why Not?by Ari N. SchulmanThe New AtlantisMay 7th, 2015Some of the most prominent of the "new rationalists" are also spokesmen of transhumanism.
Genetically Modified Humans? Seven Reasons to Say “No”by Center for Genetics and SocietyMay 7th, 2015Crossing the threshold into inheritable human genetic alterations has long been considered dangerously unacceptable for both safety and social reasons.
DIY Bio-Engineering: Disrupting Democracyby Colleen CordesBiopolitical Times guest contributorMay 1st, 2015The Do-It-Yourself synthetic biology movement (or, DIY synbio) is not advocating "citizen science," let alone "democratizing science." It's not about science or democracy.
A Tipping Point on Human Germline Modification?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMarch 19th, 2015Amidst reports that human embryos have been modified using the gene editing technique CRISPR, several groups of scientists have issued statements proposing moratoria on human germline genome editing.
Public interest group condemns human germline modification efforts, supports research moratorium, calls for US prohibition[Press Statement]March 19th, 2015We're at a watershed moment in determining whether human genetic technologies will be used in the public interest and for the common good, or in ways that are dangerous and socially pernicious.
Les Vertiges Du Transhumanisme[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky and Pete Shanks]by Corine LesnesLe MondeFebruary 12th, 2015"They're selling us technology as if it were a total blessing, but the result could well be that what we take for high-tech marvels are in fact the instrument of power exercised by a few over the rest of us."
Privacy is dead, Harvard professors tell Davos forumAgence France PresseJanuary 22nd, 2015"We are at the dawn of the age of genetic McCarthyism," said one Harvard researcher.
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