This time a week ago, 14-year-old Matthew James still lacked a left hand — something he’s had to live with all his life. But a life-changing procedure he went through on Friday gained him not only a new robotic hand, but also oodles of cool points.
Men redundant? Now we don’t need women either
Doctors are developing artificial wombs in which embryos can grow outside a woman’s body. The work has been hailed as a breakthrough in treating the childless.
Scientists have created prototypes made out of cells extracted from women’s bodies. Embryos successfully attached themselves to the walls of these laboratory wombs and began to grow. However, experiments had to be terminated after a few days to comply with in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) regulations.
‘We hope to create complete artificial wombs using these techniques in a few years,’ said Dr Hung-Ching Liu of Cornell University’s Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility. ‘Women with damaged uteruses and wombs will be able to have babies for the first time.’
Biotechnology holds the promise of some day allowing people to enhance themselves and their children using pharmaceuticals or genetic interventions. This prospect is welcomed by some, but causes a great deal of anxiety in many people: Are there enhancements whose benefits would come at the price of our humanity?
The President’s Council on Bioethics worries that people who choose to use biotech enhancements would somehow lose themselves: The Council’s report “Beyond Therapy” warns “we risk ‘turning into someone else,’ confounding the identity we have acquired through natural gift cultivated by genuinely lived experiences, alone and with others.” Liberal bioethicist George Annas from Boston University is pushing for a global treaty that would ban all inheritable modifications to any person’s genetic makeup. He favors such a treaty because he believes that “species-altering genetic engineering [is] a potential weapon of mass destruction, and [that] makes the unaccountable genetic engineer a potential bioterrorist.”
Version 2.0 (March 2002)
James J. Hughes, Ph.D.
Originally Presented at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the
Society for Social Studies of Science
November 1-4, 2001
For more information please contact:
James Hughes Ph.D.
Public Policy Studies, Trinity College,
71 Vernon St., Hartford CT, 06106, 860-297-2376,
Transhumanism is an emergent philosophical movement which says that humans can and should become more than human through technological enhancements. Contemporary transhumanism has grown out of white, male, affluent, American Internet culture, and its political perspective has generally been a militant version of the libertarianism typical of that culture. Nonetheless transhumanists are becoming more diverse, with some building a broad liberal democratic philosophic foundation in the World Transhumanist Association. A variety of left futurist trends and projects are discussed as a proto-“democratic transhumanism.” The essay also discusses the reaction of transhumanists to a small group of neo-Nazis who have attempted to attach themselves to the transhumanist movement. For the transhumanist movement to grow and become a serious challenge to their opposites, the bio-Luddites, they will need to distance themselves from their elitist anarcho-capitalist roots and clarify commitments to liberal democratic institutions, values and public policies. By embracing political engagement and the use of government to address equity, safety and efficacy concerns about transhuman technologies, transhumanists are in a better position to attract a larger, broader audience.