Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Closing the Future to Open It

From an interesting exchange with bioconservative John Howard elsewhere in the Moot:

JH: The future is just as open if we prohibit non-natural conception

ME: Yeah, just like when you close a door, it's still open.

(I hope I don't have to keep defining what I mean by that for people)

No poofters!

in terms of human freedom, it would be more open,

Bioconservative freedom... now with more bans!

with less coercive eugenic pressure,

I also disapprove of eugenic pressure -- which is why I insist on the scene of actually informed, actually nonduressed consent. That seems to scare you -- because you want to exert the direct conspicuous pressure of bans to impose a eugenic vision of proper humanity you denote "natural" however parochial it actually is.

less government regulation,

Except, you know, for the police state enforcing bioconservative bans and stuff.

less forcing people to work a million jobs to research and develop it,

There are plenty of people who are eager to help relieve suffering from hitherto untreated conditions, there's no need to "force" people. Do you want to "relieve" people from being "forced" into healing professions here and now as well?

for the people created,

uh, you mean born?

more of a sense of self-determination and equality with humans throughout history and across the globe

Self-determination survives education, and it'll survive awareness that parents exercise prenatal care on their potential offspring as well.

If you are worried, sensibly enough, that some people will select offspring according to harmful or superficial or homogenizing criteria the democratizing solution to this concern is education, not bans... unless, of course, you would be a self-appointed Gatekeeper who thinks you know more than people do themselves about what they want.

In that case don't pretend to be democratic or progressive, because you're just not.

Also, solidarity does not require homogeneity with humans throughout history or across cultures, which is a good thing inasmuch as humans have never exhibited such homogeneity throughout history or across culture. What I celebrate is equity in diversity.

Saying "Enough" (I'm referring to the McKibben book that advocates a ban on germline GE) doesn't mean letting everything go to pot and stopping all research into diseases

A quick aside -- I strongly prefer McKibben's more recent book Deep Economy.

Now, to the interesting point at hand. You bioconservatives confront a real quandary as far as I can see: Even if you want to promote healthcare interventions that seem comfortably familiar but still progressive, something like, say, a "Hayfleckian" utopia that accomplishes the distribution to everybody of the best healthspan presently available only to a lucky few now, and you will still end up mobilizing r & d that also yields non-normalizing interventions of the kind you seem to abhor.

This doesn't yield the triumphalist escalator to superlative transhumanist super-capacities, but it does yield an enormously complex dynamic in which hitherto customary capacities, morphologies, and expectations are called profoundly into question, with important consequences to our efforts to determine equity, general welfare, basic standards, decisional competence, reliable knowledge, and so on.

Once again, the hyperbole of both transhuman rah rah and bioconservative tsk tsk makes this urgent deliberation far harder and less clear than it should be, and disastrously so in fact given the proximity and hence urgency of actually emerging techniques and their problems.

I understand, of course, many of the worries about corporatism, eugenicism, and irrational expansionism that fuel the politics of bioconservativism in its best most leftmost forms, but enforcing stasis in the name of a parochial conception of the "natural" seems to me a recipe for authoritarianism whatever one's angelic intentions, and so I turn instead to the strongest possible defense of the scene of legible consent. This approach too is fraught with difficulties, as no doubt you will be quick to point out (often to my benefit).

Germline GE won't help any people that are not privileged to have healthy lives

It is the task of progressives to see to it that it does.

diverts care from them in a very quantifiable way and also diverts sympathy from them, as they become to be seen as "defective" people that shouldn't have been born in the first place

That is indeed one of my critiques of many transhumanist formulations. Those that receive this criticism from me earn it by literally denigrating (or cheerfully aligning with those who do) neuro-atypical folks, non-hearing folks, non-human animals, and so on. But the fact remains that I personally take the opposite position very forcefully and consistently in my writing. Does that matter to you?

Be that as it may, there is more to say here. It seems to me a proper championing and celebration of the differently enabled in our diversity should include both a defense of all people's desires to make informed consensual recourse (or refrain from this) to non-normalizing technique (or "normalizing" ones) as we all see fit, in the service of whatever lifeways we would incarnate, so long as we do not deform the scene of consent itself in our ends.

Treating the differently enabled like endangered species or pets in a zoo or specimens to be frozen and pinned to a board is hardly the epitome of respect for living dynamic responsive diversity you seem to think it is. If you would actually respect the dignity of the differently enabled, it seems to me you would affirm what they consent to on their own terms in the expression and facilitation of their lifeways, and celebrate the lifeway multiculture that eventuates from such consent -- even where you find it skeery and unnatural.

It's like most of us are so privileged and satisfied that people that need our care make us uncomfortable, but we are also so selfish and lazy that we just want to reset the MAtrix with them not in it.

Speak for yourself.

We think that calling for research and development into germline GE so that we can "eradicate" their disease is somehow compassionate,

I don't, unless they do.

people actually are surprised when the people with the disease they want to eradicate point out that it is them they want to eradicate.

I make this point to transhumanists all the time. Does that matter to you?

I'm not selling nostalgia, you still are refusing to see how a ban would bring about those good things you say we agree on.

I'm sure your ban would be an awesome ban bringing all sorts of awesome good things to the lucky people living under your "natural" bioconservative regime.

You're the one that wants to keep slogging through the status quo that we've been in since HG Wells and Huxley's day

Except that, well, no, I don't. Quite to the contrary. Does that matter to you?

I'm advocating a major change,

Bans on procreative practices bigoted elites disapprove of aren't exactly new, guy.

one that is necessary if we are to focus on the things that matter, like global warming, economic justice, world hunger, etc.

Nonsense. Queer couples having wanted babies, safely if unnaturally by your lights, could still defend the multilateral treaties that would criminalize pollution of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, could still struggle for a basic income guarantee funded by progressive taxation of income (including investment income) and real estate, and could still defend seed saving and sharing, water sovereignty, and so on.

If safer techniques do emerge for same-sex conception and some informed nonduressed people consent to these, the world won't end however skeered you are at that prospect, and nothing is to keep progressive people from concentrating on the other just and sustainable outcomes that are possible and necessary.

Remember the C[ivil]U[nion] compromise plan I'm proposing too, and how if we do this right, full equal protections and federal recogition would accompany giving up the transhumanist goals of same-sex conception and germline engineering.

Oh, believe me, John, I do remember your rather crazy homophobic plan to "ensure" the legalization of same-sex marriage only by proposing a ban on same-sex reproduction... as if anybody but reactionary bigots who don't want queers to get married in the first place give two shits about whether or not they safely find ways to have kids together.

Look, queer marriage is coming anyway. We don't need to enshrine second-class citizenship through a bioconservative procreation ban to get queer marriage rights -- we'll get all that anyway (those queers who want it, that is). Bioconservatives will just have to deal with it.

24 comments:

giulio said...

Re: "Nonsense. Queer couples having wanted babies, safely if unnaturally by your lights, could still defend the multilateral treaties that would criminalize pollution of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, could still struggle for a basic income guarantee funded by progressive taxation of income (including investment income) and real estate, and could still defend seed saving and sharing, water sovereignty, and so on."

Of course I agree. But note that this is precisely the point that I make regarding your remarks against transhumanists. Just replace "Queer couples having wanted babies, safely if unnaturally by your lights," with "Transhumanists who take very imaginative scientific speculations seriously". It seems to me that if you want to defend your very correct statement you should also accept mine.

Michael Anissimov said...

Gay people with their own children, oh no!

"people actually are surprised when the people with the disease they want to eradicate point out that it is them they want to eradicate.

I make this point to transhumanists all the time."

And transhumanists all agree with you, except for maybe Dalibor den Otter and his defunct Transtopia website. You can't even find a single sentence that says otherwise. Instead, you take transhumanists' "sooperman"-style enthusiasm to somehow mean ("and then a miracle occurs" style) that they must in actuality despise all deaf, autistic, or otherwise atypical morphological subtypes. News flash: transhumanists are completely accepting of all these unique contributions to diversity, and in fact encourage the creation of millions more additional variants. All transhumanist literature argues such, and makes the point with a sledgehammer numerous times.

Michael Anissimov said...

Furthermore, last year I interviewed Anne C on video for hours and hours, broaching the topic of autism and how it relates to H+ goals, because we wanted to take an active approach to encouraging complete acceptance and understanding of atypicality among the transhumanist community.

Of course, all of this means nothing because I am friends with some libertarians. Transhumanists have da evil masta plan, durrr.

jfehlinger said...

> The future is just as open if we prohibit non-natural conception. . .

Hey, isn't anybody around here terrified of the prospect
of the Large Hardon Collider [*] in Switzerland spewing out all
those black holes, strangelets, queerlets, and Scarletts?
And then going on to swallow the whole earth (and **God**
knows what else) down its deep throat?

I mean, let's get our priorities, er, straight, people.

[*] I swear it was only a Mistake (TM). I'm not promoting
any Gay Agenda here. Not me, nosirree.

jfehlinger said...

> News flash: transhumanists are completely accepting of
> all these unique contributions to diversity, and in fact
> encourage the creation of millions more additional variants.

But **no poofters**!!!

Dale Carrico said...

Giulio: Just replace "Queer couples having wanted babies, safely if unnaturally by your lights," with "Transhumanists who take very imaginative scientific speculations seriously". It seems to me that if you want to defend your very correct statement you should also accept mine.

I know it must be enormously difficult to actually read things people write, Giulio. And then to remember them, what a chore!

The reason John Howard is concerned about same-sex conception and others (not only bioconservatives, certainly) are concerned about reproductive cloning is that we can now sketch actually plausible pathways to their palpably proximate realization. But neither of these proximately upcoming techniques can yet be described as "actually emerging" -- they are tantalizingly near, say, but not sound enough to be safely implemented even in clinical trials (but seem sure to be sooner rather than later).

To the extent that John Howard and others are zeroing in on the worry that this very proximity will induce some to jump the gun and "try it and see" he is saying something absolutely reasonable. This is especially so to the extent that medicine is a for-profit concern in the corporate-militarist epoch of capitalism, in which cost-externalization is as or more profitable than production and ubiquitous financialization constricts the horizon of concern to the quarterly profit report rather than the horizon of relevant foresight.

What might seem a critique of "technology" (and therefore get branded by a facile transhumanist as luddite or bioconservative) is in fact a critique that under these circumstances the distribution of technodevelopmental risks, costs, and benefits is exploitative and unfair, precisely because it is undemocratic. "Try it and see" will mean people assuming possibly catastrophic risks to themselves and their offspring through misinformation and the duress of the precarity in an unjust world, to hammer out the details the better to make benefits available in a payoff for rich and privileged people soon thereafter who assumed far fewer of these burdens.

But I believe that these reasonable concerns are only the sensible face of a bioconservatism that is fueled in fact by the reactionary and eugenic project to constrain lifeway diversity into the forms in which they are themselves invested, parochial forms which they then term the "natural" ones, in a project of policing they then term "defending dignity." These moves are very familiar from the anti-abortion/anti-choice framing of itself as "pro-life." I've been saying this for years. Bioconservative Bait and Switch. Also: Keep Your Laws Off My Body!

A bioconservative will say that the techniques that happen to push their "unnaturalness" buttons (all too typically these buttons will be legible, without much difficulty in the translate, as slightly skewed expressions of very familiar homophobic or racist attitudes, inter-generational anxieties, and the like, see my: Chimera) are not only unsafe here and now, but inherently unsafe, forever unsafe, and must be banned in perpetuity. The reason for this is because what is really "unsafe" about them is that they undermine the familiar natural world in which the bioconservative is invested. This is the biopolitical face of the political incumbency I rail against in my defense of p2p democratization.

Incidentally, note how an "old-fashioned" "calcified" left-right distinction of incumbency as against democratization seems, as usual, quite equal to technodevelopmental complexities here, while the introduction of new "clarifying" dimension to the analysis of technodevelopment "beyond left and right" function only to enable reactionaries to lie about what they are up to and encourage progressives to forget what they should be working on.

In any case, the bioconservative seizes on sensible concerns and skepticism about proximately upcoming techniques (often framed through the lens of more fantastical projections that are not yet even palpable, clone armies, designer babies), to indulge an hysterical repudiation of what they experience as change that is threatening to their parochial but familiar conception of the world, and their privileged place in it, a familiarity they term the "natural" and invest with moral significance. The proximate concerns on which they focus are just the occasion, the pretext for a project of profoundly anti-democratizing, anti-consensualizing reactionary policing in the service of the status quo.

Transhumanists like you Giulio seek to confuse the superlative outcomes in which you are invested with actually emerging or palpably proximately upcoming technodevelopment as well. But they just are not the same. Same-sex conception may well be generally and safely available to the next generation of would-be parents, but you are never ever going to be immortal, you are never ever going to upload your consciousness into a digital network, you are never ever going to find yourself in a post-political world of superabundance, you are never ever going to confront a Friendly or Unfriendly Robot God at the End of History. These are not "highly imaginative scientific speculation" or "far-flung technical projections" but conventional exhibitions of hysterical denialism about human finitude of a kind that tend more typically to invigorate fundamentalist and militarist social formations, only for transhumanists just translated into superficially technological terms.

You say in your intervention that one can simply "replace" same-sex conception (which, mind you, I think should be publicly funded and regulated before clinical trials are contemplated, let alone making techniques generally available, and only then, one hopes, into a world in which activists have rendered oversight incomparably less corrupt and more effective, access to knowledge more free and more reliable, and the duress of precarity less conspicuous through the provision of basic healthcare and income) with the more "imaginative scientific speculations" of trasnhumanists. Well, first off, quite a bit of the highly imaginative speculations of transhumanists are science fiction rather than scientific practice, a distinction you Giulio seem even less capable of holding in your head than most transhumanists, who generally have trouble with sort of thing. But more to the point, contrary to the incessant statements to the contrary by my transhumanist critics on this score, my point isn't just to urge more caution about "far-out" speculations. See my: Superlative Schema. In it I try to make plain the moves by which transhumanists take actually emerging and proximately upcoming technodevelopment (often framed through the lens of more fantastical projections that are not yet even palpable, Drexlerian nanofactories, SENS therapies so successful they raise human healthspans past 120 years), invest it with the transcendentalizing aspirations familiar from theological omni-predicates, but in technoscientific super-predicated forms.

(The schema, in a nutshell: omniscience/superintelligence/Singularitarianism -- omnipotence/superlongevity/Techno-Immortalism -- omnibenevolence/superabundance/Nanosanta-Digital Utopianism).

Superlativity is an infantile revolt against human finitude, against the contingency, mortality, fallibility, and inter-personal insecurities of human life. It is a project of reassurance that is deeply vulnerable to authoritarian institutionalizations (it is, after all, a precise correlate to the authoritarian politicization of religiosity that produces fundamentalist social formations with all their moralizing militancies).

Technoscientific change is indeed disruptive and radical, shifting the dynamic of history by making available new materials and tools that people take up opportunistically in their collaboration and contestation with one another and in their own projects of personal perfection. The opportunities for violence and exploitation and catastrophe are manifold -- demanding that actual progressives champion a scene of legible and substantial informed nonduressed consent for those who would make recourse to these new tools on their own terms. The opportunities for creativity and emancipation are also manifold, and their costs, risks, and benefits must all be distributed fairly by the lights of the stakeholders to technoscientific change.

But technodevelopment will not deliver transcendance. Nor will banning technodevelopment "return us" to a Lost Eden. No Heaven before us, no Golden Age behind us.

Dale Carrico said...

Transhumanist Michael Anissimov wrote: last year I interviewed Anne C on video for hours and hours, broaching the topic of autism and how it relates to H+ goals, because we wanted to take an active approach to encouraging complete acceptance and understanding of atypicality among the transhumanist community.

How's that working out for you? Any accomplishments to speak of? Anne certainly seems very enthusiastic (NOT!) about the "great work" transhumanists are doing in general to become more sensitive and active (bolding makes it true!) in their defense of neuro-atypicality.

Have you listened to transhumanist James Hughes -- probably the smartest and most interesting transhumanist among you lot -- talking about how non-hearing people who want non-hearing offspring are somehow "deafening" not-yet-born kids just by wanting them? Just to desire a "non-optimal" child by his parochial lights is to do violence to the "optimal" child who takes humanity one step further along the road to the truly ideal truly optimal (according to the latest oh so "nonbiased" utilitarian bioethical specifications) post-human species with whom transhumanists actually identify while dis-identifying with the actually existing diversity of differently enabled people in the lifeway multiculture of history.

Have you heard Hughes -- among others -- imply that nonhuman animals simply through their exhibition of non-humanness can be taken to be "asking" to be "uplifted" into more human-intelligible forms of cognition? Again, as if not to be "optimally" incarnated cognitively or morphologically is somehow to be violated in a way that demands intervention. And all this in the name of "Enlightenment" and "respect."

If you really care about these issues, does this "caring" cash out in actually ongoing engagements with these issues? Does it give you pause in cheerfully identifying with "we trasnhumanists" who nevertheless exhibit the insensitive attitudes you claim to care about? Are you willing to concede these attitudes are prevalent among transhumanists, rather than hiding behind the convenience of their non-universality?

Why is it you are so eager to take up your collective sub(cult)ural banner when you want to whomp up enthusiasm and cash for your "movement" but get so prickly and hyper-individual when anybody points to more troubling generalities on exhibit among your membership? Which is it, Michael? Having your cake and eating it too is nice when you can get it... which is never.

Anissimov: Of course, all of this means nothing because I am friends with some libertarians. Transhumanists have da evil masta plan, durrr.

Make common cause with the Right in the service of right-wing outcomes and you don't get to claim to be a progressive democrat anymore. If you want to embrace libertarianism, go ahead -- and expect to pay for it. But you can't have your cake and eat it too. Things mean things. Pretending this is conspiracy theory looks like a fairly desperate and deceptive ploy to me.

John Howard said...

JH: The future is just as open if we prohibit non-natural conception

DC: Yeah, just like when you close a door, it's still open.


I'm trying to get you to see that human freedom and an open future do not depend on the ability and the right to create other people's genomes. Even gay people's open future does not depend on same-sex conception being made possible, or not being prohibited whether it might be possible or not. Just like my open future does not depend on my being allowed to develop X-Ray specs to look at the boobs of girls on the subway. I will still have an open future, even if we were to ban X-Ray specs. It's a point of fact.

JH: (I hope I don't have to keep defining what I mean by ["natural conception"] for people)

DC: No poofters!


Now here I call "Asshole!" Dale. When I say "natural conception" I mean no genetic modifications. It has nothing to do with your easy target of "naturalism", as it includes IVF, it includes interracial (another asshole smear), it includes ever single thing that is done or has ever been done. The only things it doesn't include is use of gametes that do not represent an actual person or other asexual methods of creating an embryo. Natural conception will continue to produce gay people, gay people will continue to reproduce naturally. I take umbrage against this libelous charge because not only am I supportive of gay people and gay rights, I am the one with the best plan in the whole country to expand gay rights and immediately achieve equal protections and calm normalcy and acceptance for gay people. Your plan is apparently to smother all the people who object to gay marriage and then who will object to same-sex conception, possibly achieving enough smothering in ten or twenty years that you will emerge triumphant in the courts or legislatures, but at such a cost to other priorities and with so many wounds life will just continue to suck for everyone.

JH: in terms of human freedom, it would be more open,

DC: Bioconservative freedom... now with more bans!


With one ban. Look, you seem to be proposing a ban too, right? What's this you are saying about oversight and it not being done until it is safe? Who will enforce that, when some couple says they want to try it now? You want it to be a completely arbitrary denial of freedom, with some control board of overseers and its own policing mechanism. It will be much easier and less obtrusive to have a blanket ban against all GE'd babies than to have your board of overseers making their "democratic" decisions. And my ban would be more "democratic" than yours, it would be enacted and enforced by our Congress and Executive branch, you ban by some quasi experts (apparently Dale Carrico himself).

JH: with less coercive eugenic pressure,

DC: I also disapprove of eugenic pressure -- which is why I insist on the scene of actually informed, actually nonduressed consent. That seems to scare you -- because you want to exert the direct conspicuous pressure of bans to impose a eugenic vision of proper humanity you denote "natural" however parochial it actually is.


Again, you are the one that seems to want a series of selective bans on things that are not "safe", and "education" to get people to make the right decisions. If we allow any genetic intervention, then we introduce duress and pressure to use it. A free choice to use it or not becomes impossible, there is nothing but duress and pressure at work, unless we force people to flip a coin and call it in the air.

It's obscene of you to say that I'm trying to impose a "eugenic vision". The only "betterness" I envision in is not in the genes of people but in the way a ban would allow people to feel responsible and start caring about each other instead of feeling worthless and extraneous, not able to eat a good lard stick without some elitist scientist guy wishing us dead.

less government regulation,

Except, you know, for the police state enforcing bioconservative bans and stuff.


Again, one ban. One ban makes it much easier to enforce than some review board deciding which techniques are safe or ethical. Another point of fact you ignore. Either you are one of the Laissez-Faire transhumanists who oppose government regulation, or you are calling for government regulation (or, you are calling for a blanket ban, like me.) You are BSing again when you use the Libertarian arguments against me and my arguments against them.

less forcing people to work a million jobs to research and develop it,

There are plenty of people who are eager to help relieve suffering from hitherto untreated conditions, there's no need to "force" people. Do you want to "relieve" people from being "forced" into healing professions here and now as well?


I'm talking about the people forced to work two jobs at Wal-Mart because you want to take their money to fund same-sex conception research, and then fund the practice, too (or do you imagine it will only be available to rich gay couples? I didn't bother to respond to Guilio in that other thread, but I'm opposed to insurance companies also. But they are surely licking their chops over genetic intervention and same-sex conception. It'll obviously have to be an entitlement available to everyone who asks for it, which means it'll obviously have to be paid for by the crackers through taxes and insurance payments. Will they respond by buying the more expensive locally-made clothes and locally-grown produce, or will they respond by choosing the clothes that came in huge freighters from unregulated factories across the globe and the beef from Brazil? You guys don't realize how big your footprint is.

John Howard said...

Self-determination survives education, and it'll survive awareness that parents exercise prenatal care on their potential offspring as well.

If you are worried, sensibly enough, that some people will select offspring according to harmful or superficial or homogenizing criteria the democratizing solution to this concern is education, not bans...


This is funny. You go from seeing education is having no effect on a person's self-determination to thinking that education will somehow prevent people from desiring anything you think is bad. Which is it? In this case, the answer is in the middle (where you purport to live, but as we can see you only use to hide from reality there) - education has a moderate impact on people's self-determination, but people aren't bound by it. They can still reject their education and these days, when it conflicts with what they want, they usually do. Education won't stop anyone from making selfish or harmful eugenic choices at the baby store, though it will be an attempt to reduce their self-determination. But a genetic modification would be much harder to selfishly ignore, it would have a much stronger impact on self-determination.

John Howard said...

Germline GE won't help any people that are not privileged to have healthy lives

It is the task of progressives to see to it that it does.


But its not possible. Germline GE just pops people out, presumably with greater privileges. It doesn't help any unprivileged people.

jfehlinger said...

John Howard wrote:

> I am the one with the best plan in the whole country to
> expand gay rights and immediately achieve equal protections
> and calm normalcy and acceptance for gay people.

I may just be out of touch, but this is literally the very first
time I've ever heard **anybody** suggest that the primary roadblock
to gay people achieving "calm normalcy" is the horrific possibility
that they might want offspring via artifical gametes.

I've never heard that that's the Joint Chiefs' objection to having
gays in the military. It isn't mentioned by Reichen Lehmkuhl
in his book about his experiences in the Air Force Academy ;-> .
It isn't mentioned by Mel White in _Stranger at the Gate_, his
story about being a closeted homosexual among Christian
fundamentalists. Mikhail Zeleny doesn't mention it when he
says that homosexuals violate Kant's Categorical Imperative (in
fact, part of his argument is that homosexuals shirk their
moral obligation to reproduce -- something that would be **redressed**
by artificial gametes). It isn't mentioned in the usual diatribes
about the "proper use" of the penis and the anus[*], or in this
one about how women are natural "innies" and men are natural "outies"
http://genders.blogspot.com/2004/09/compatibility.html
(if I were this guy's girlfriend, I think I'd take umbrage at
being characterized as a "hole" :-0 ).

I just have to admit -- this is a new one on me!

[*] or two penises. If you haven't seen this Comedy Central
episode (Diagnosis Mystery), by all means watch it:
http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2007/03/20/251

John Howard said...

But the fact remains that I personally take the opposite position very forcefully and consistently in my writing. Does that matter to you?

I've said that your writings are BS. But they do matter, they confuse people and make people think that a debate is taking place and will be resolved soon enough.

You fetishize consent. Are you a marketing major? Are you saying I treat differently-enabled people like specimens or endangered species? I hope not, as I thought I was clear about equal dignity and equal conception rights for all people.

It's like most of us are so privileged and satisfied that people that need our care make us uncomfortable, but we are also so selfish and lazy that we just want to reset the MAtrix with them not in it.

Speak for yourself.


I was speaking about our lazy society that seems ready to allow transhumanism and genetic engineering to start inevitably happening. That would seem to include you, though you use more words than necessary, so maybe you aren't lazy.

We think that calling for research and development into germline GE so that we can "eradicate" their disease is somehow compassionate,

I don't, unless they do.


They don't. They speak of feeling pressure and coercion to accept PGD and germline engineering. Unless the education was subtle enough that they don't realize it.

people actually are surprised when the people with the disease they want to eradicate point out that it is them they want to eradicate.

I make this point to transhumanists all the time. Does that matter to you?


I guess not, since you don't make it to yourself.

I'm not selling nostalgia, you still are refusing to see how a ban would bring about those good things you say we agree on.

I'm sure your ban would be an awesome ban bringing all sorts of awesome good things to the lucky people living under your "natural" bioconservative regime.


Which would be everyone.

You're the one that wants to keep slogging through the status quo that we've been in since HG Wells and Huxley's day

Except that, well, no, I don't. Quite to the contrary. Does that matter to you?


Yeah you do. We already have everything legal and decided by your quasi-democratic ethics boards making little step-by-step advances into practical consensual peer to peer whatever. We already work to make these advances more available to everyone. We already do everything you say you are for doing. The status quo includes a rate of slow change, it includes a refusal to actually stop the brave new world, it includes mocking people who are either too bioconservative or too far out futurist. You embody the status quo perfectly.

I'm advocating a major change,

Bans on procreative practices bigoted elites disapprove of aren't exactly new, guy.


It would be a major change to ban genetic engineering. It would change the status quo. It would be heard around the world, including in terrorist camps and third world villages. It would change your life, my life, everyone's life.

John Howard said...

jfehlinger, right, their plans suck, and your plans suck. My plan doesn't.

John Howard said...

one that is necessary if we are to focus on the things that matter, like global warming, economic justice, world hunger, etc.

Nonsense. Queer couples having wanted babies, safely if unnaturally by your lights, could still defend the multilateral treaties that would criminalize pollution of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, could still struggle for a basic income guarantee funded by progressive taxation of income (including investment income) and real estate, and could still defend seed saving and sharing, water sovereignty, and so on.


First of all, it's "safely" by your lights, it will never be possible to declare it safe until it's been shown to not effect the whole lifespan of human beings. Second, stop tarring me with a straw man "natural" argument that I'm not making. I use the term as short-hand for "egg of an actual woman fertilized by a sperm of an actual human male", and don't think it is preferable because it is somehow more natural than alternatives. Though the fact that does have that organic birds-do-it, people have always done it this exact same way honesty going for it does help justify it and give it special appeal.

And sure, people using GE or SSP would no doubt call for treaties and conservation and things, but they'd have no moral weight because when it comes to things they want to do, they cling to them and refuse to let anyone restrict their own freedom. They thus justify and breed selfish hypocrisy for everyone. They breed cynicism. If the rich elites actually gave something up, then we could make some progress.

If safer techniques do emerge for same-sex conception and some informed nonduressed people consent to these, the world won't end however skeered you are at that prospect, and nothing is to keep progressive people from concentrating on the other just and sustainable outcomes that are possible and necessary.

Now it's "safer"? (Again, soon you have to explain how this works in practice). And where are these "nonduressed" people going to come from? Are you going to breed them in virtual reality education pods where there is no blogs by DI-children calling for an end to DI-conception, or crazy lovers who want to share a biological connection, or mistaken SSM opponents who say that procreation is the purpose of marriage? The duress exists and there is no getting away from it.

Remember the C[ivil]U[nion] compromise plan I'm proposing too, and how if we do this right, full equal protections and federal recogition would accompany giving up the transhumanist goals of same-sex conception and germline engineering.

Oh, believe me, John, I do remember your rather crazy homophobic plan to "ensure" the legalization of same-sex marriage only by proposing a ban on same-sex reproduction... as if anybody but reactionary bigots who don't want queers to get married in the first place give two shits about whether or not they safely find ways to have kids together.


It would ensure equal protections through CU's and preserve the conception rights of marriage while also prohibiting GE and SSC, so it wouldn't allow SSM. Actually, far more people think same-sex procreation is wrong than think SSM is wrong, in my experience. Though most of the people who support SSM strongly also support SSP, the people who only support SSM because of the "why not let them marry" mentality don't support SSP, they understand that SSP involves a huge cost to them and a huge risk to children.

Look, queer marriage is coming anyway. We don't need to enshrine second-class citizenship through a bioconservative procreation ban to get queer marriage rights -- we'll get all that anyway (those queers who want it, that is). Bioconservatives will just have to deal with it.

The public isn't really aware of SSP or GE and they don't think there is anything that can be done about it if they are. It wouldn't be second class citizenship to not be allowed to do GE, straight people won't be allowed to do it either. And not being able to procreate doesn't mean second-class citizenship either, and you are actually implying that it does when you insist that gay couples without that ability aren't first class citizens. It's the same argument that Dvorsky was making that you supposedly rejected. Except that you weren't. Do you keep a bull in the backyard or something?

AnneC said...

Michael: for the record, I do acknowledge that you personally have always seemed more or less respectful of autistic self-advocacy, at least as far as I've been able to tell.

I do have some issues with how you seem to gloss over/ignore the unavoidably politicized nature of the word "intelligence" (seeing as many autistic and other atypical persons over the years have essentially been "written off" and institutionalized for life and denied educational opportunities as a result of scoring low on IQ tests that were, for instance, biased toward spoken language -- yes, IQ may correlate with "success in life", but it's hard to even approach "success" if you were written off at age five as a result of your Weschler score), but I would not call your efforts to engage with me on the subject of autism "meaningless".

But that's you personally, not "transhumanism".

Frankly, I do not feel at this point that transhumanism per se is my "ally" on matters of morphological freedom. Sure, individuals might have attitudes that ally with mine, but at this point I see H+ as a "movement" going down a path of undermining principles I am not willing to compromise on.

Regardless of whether I like someone as a person or not, and regardless of how they may have helped me out or introduced me to opportunities I might not have had otherwise, I don't think any of that means I owe them some kind of "loyalty" as far as supporting their favorite subcultures or what-have-have you goes. That doesn't even make sense in my way of looking at things.

It is positively ludicrous to think that societies will want to support infrastructure upgrades to accommodate cyborgs, etc., or that the scene of self-modification will be maximally open and free (meaning not unduly limited by prejudice and corporate-interest pressures), when people nowadays get in such a snit over the "burden" of accommodating people who might be atypical in some existing way already.

I'm not saying you're one of these people, but as far as my own advocacy stuff goes, I am really really really worried about the perpetuation of "burden" language and policy, just as I am by the weird move some folks seem to be taking to define more and more things as "constraints" (meaning "things that ought to be remedied medically") while claiming to want to blur or erase the line between "therapy" and "enhancement". You don't blur that line by trying to define more and more people as "defective" and trying to frame ALL (or most, or even a growing number of) interventions (into non-lethal differences) as "therapy".

But...that's exactly what I see some folks trying to do, and I can't see how that effort is likely to go anywhere I want to be a part of.

Of course it's not ONLY transhumanists I see doing this -- the general public is doing it too.

As I've pointed out here and elsewhere, the problems in H+ are the problems of humanity, meaning that their appearance in H+ is absolutely to be expected.

But that doesn't make them okay, nor does H+ or any other subculture get a "free pass" in my book to claim that it is less ignorant with regard to them without actually proving it (and I don't mean proving it through argument, but through long-term demonstration).

AnneC said...

And, to John Howard: I'm quite thoroughly confused at how you claim to be against eugenics, yet sufficiently and horribly worried about birth defects in the poor gay mutant babies of gaypersons that you'd want to BAN ALL genetic engineering. Isn't claiming that some people shouldn't exist because they are too "defective" at the very core of eugenics? Just saying.

Dale Carrico said...

You fetishize consent.

Informed nonduressed consent is indeed my highest political value.

Dale Carrico said...

This is funny. You go from seeing education is having no effect on a person's self-determination to thinking that education will somehow prevent people from desiring anything you think is bad.

I'll pretend you're honestly perplexed by what I have said here (I don't believe that's true).

I disagreed with the view that children who eventuated from actually proximately possible genetic intervention would feel any more overdetermined or "under-humanized" by that fact than are children here and now by the ample pressures of education and training.

I also disagreed with the view that it is better for self-appointed elites to ban safe, wanted outcomes they happen to think are unnatural and bad than to provide everybody with the information that makes them think these outcomes are bad so that actually intelligent people can make that determination for themselves in an informed, nonduressed manner.

I disagree that there is some kind of paradox or even, frankly, the mildest of conflicts in my advocating both of these positions at once.

Dale Carrico said...

And where are these "nonduressed" people going to come from? Are you going to breed them in virtual reality education pods

I do believe that progressive people can and must fight for more democracy, more equity, more consent in our affairs. I am not proposing that "market exchanges" are nonduressed by fiat as facile libertopians pretend, I am not satisfied by what passes for the scene of "consent" under contemporary neoliberal condition (I actually write about this quite a lot in Amor Mundi and it is central in my teaching practice too). But I certainly haven't thrown in the towel and decided that actually informed nonduressed consent is only "possible" in some sci fi virtual utopia as you so cynically suggest and that therefore I, like you, must try to ban everything that doesn't accord with the technodevelopmental outcomes I personally aspire after.

Dale Carrico said...

I'm trying to get you to see that human freedom and an open future do not depend on the ability and the right to create other people's genomes.

It's true, even if bioconservatives managed to curtail some freedom through your cherished bans human beings would still find countless ways to express their freedom otherwise. That doesn't make your desire to curtail freedom justifiable. If same-sex conception were safely available and wanted by informed, nonduressed adults, then you have no business seeking to curtail it. It's that simple.

I am the one with the best plan in the whole country to expand gay rights and immediately achieve equal protections and calm normalcy and acceptance for gay people.

I and the other queer people of America salute you, John Howard, for offering to "save us" by making same-sex conception illegal in perpetuity, whether or not medical techniques are developed that would make such conception a safe alternative to the "natural" man-woman baby-making bioconservatives seem to prefer. (Coo-coo, coo-coo!)

What's this you are saying about oversight and it not being done until it is safe? Who will enforce that,

It's called "government," John.

It isn't like the Killer Clown Administration will be in charge forever, you know. It just feels like that sometimes.

you ban by some quasi experts (apparently Dale Carrico himself).

Whuh?

John Howard said...

To AnneC. The risk argument against same-sex conception is only the most convenient and resonant, you are right that it appeals to eugenic passions. I usually take pains to point out that it is only one argument, there is a risk to everything, and it should be banned even if they find a way to show it is equally safe. The main reason to ban it is that because to ban genetic engineering and avoid the whole government regulated eugenics industry scenario, we have to draw the line at natural conception, which means conceiving people that are the union of unmodified gametes. Unmodified gametes means a sperm of a man and an egg of a woman. If we say that its OK to modify gametes so that the egg is from a man (however they do it, whether with those new induced pluripotent stem cells, synthetic DNA, whatever) it makes it impossible to justify not allowing some straight couple to make a comparatively minor change to their gametes, a change that would be less risky and would probably benefit the child. Plus, allowing same-sex conception and approving of its development insults families where one or both parents are not related to their children. It suggests that they aren't real families, it sends a message to those kids that their parents don't love them as much as they would if only same-sex conception had been ready. And plus, it is a huge waste of resources at a time when people cannot bet basic health care. On top of that, it is intentionally putting a child at extreme risk, which I don't think is eugenic to oppose, anymore than opposing someone purposefully drinking and smoking while pregnant who never drank or smoked before in her life, just to send some message of her right to do whatever she wants. At some point, we have to stand up for the health of the babies that are being created and say that intentionally exposing a future child to extra risk is wrong. Even if that means finding someone else to have that child with. There are limits to that too, of course, because everyone has the right to have a child with the person of their choice. So only certain relationships based on supportable basis like relatedness, being a child, being married to someone else, or being of the same sex are OK, not invasive genetic tests or age-limits or lifestyle limits.

Contrary to Dale and most other people I argue with about same-sex marriage rights, I'm not trying to stop all this just to stop gay people from marrying for some reason (I want equal protections with CU's). I'm trying to stop all GE, and that includes same-sex conception too. It means preserving everyone's conception rights, everyone's right to use their own unmodified genes to reproduce with someone, which means that other person has to be of the other sex, because it requires modifying the gene otherwise. (I also agree with prohibitions on having children with close relatives, children, and people married to someone else, which all affect straight people. 99% of the people that would be affected would be straight, but everyone would continue to have the right to do everything they can do today, so in that sense no one would be affected.)

John Howard said...

It's called "government," John.

It's funny we both accuse the other of being an elite making a ban, but, well, I'm right and your wrong. I want Congress to make a law that makes it a major crime to attempt to conceive a child that is not the union of a man and a woman's actual representative unmodified gametes. That ought to take them about fifteen minutes of deliberation, and then it ought to be really easy to enforce, no special agency required because the line is so clear, it will be easy to spot labs and doctors that are offering anything illegal. And labs and doctors will certainly know where the line is, and researchers will know where the line is. So there isn't any need for an elite making arbitrary decisions.

You want, presumably, a government agency, which will exist through clown administrations and even clowner adminstrations, that makes constant new rules and regulations and somehow prevents any labs from jumping the gun on any particular new technique before your agency says its OK. Saying that it shouldn't be done until it is safe is meaningless because you don't have any idea how that determination would be made and how you would justify telling a gay couple that wants to try it anyway that the government doesn't think it is safe yet, but maybe next year it will be. It offers none of the benefits of a permanent ban, and indeed requires us to put maximum resources toward speeding up the development, because spending anything on, say, regular health care for example, would be a travesty of justice, preventing gay couples from having children while they are still good looking.

I don't see how you are going to tell the libertarians that it is not safe enough to try yet. Tell me the mechanism, tell me, why are you not agreeing with me that it should be banned right now? Right now it is legal! Right now any lab in the country could create an embryo however they want and implant it in a uterus (except Missouri, where they prohibit the implanting part). I smell something again. What do you want government to do about this?

Dale Carrico said...

allowing same-sex conception and approving of its development insults families where one or both parents are not related to their children

Things that are different insult me, ban them! Bioconservativism in nutshell.

it sends a message to those kids that their parents don't love them as much as they would if only same-sex conception had been ready

Quite apart from the fact that this "message" exists only in your mind, I daresay such messaging could be easily be compensated for by the actual parent actually indicating they actually love their actual child.

intentionally putting a child at extreme risk, which I don't think is eugenic to oppose, anymore than opposing someone purposefully drinking and smoking while pregnant who never drank or smoked before in her life, just to send some message of her right to do whatever she wants

Few parents want to harm their kids or put them at risk, and providing reliable information about actual harms and risks according to scientific consensus (rather than transhumanist transcendentalizing hype or bioconservative reactionary panic) would go a long way to overcome this worry, to the extent that it is a legitimate one.

There are also, by the way, laws against fraud and misinformation, or criminal neglect that would come into play in some cases.

I think we have to be very careful in deploying these conventions, however, as healthcare shifts from a normalizing recovery model to a diversifying lifeway model. Some people seem to want to treat the conception of atypical offspring as a kind of "abuse" even if atypicality is not a barrier to flourishing on their own terms.

This is why it seems to me we need shift from the progressive ideal hitherto of an application of universal standards (which we never managed to implement in any case) to an ideal of universal access and informed nonduressed consent, else eugenic projects of bioconservative "preservationists" or transhumanist "optimizers" will trump consensual lifeway multiculture in an era of modification medicine.

exposing a future child to extra risk is wrong

What if the technique you disapprove of as "unnatural" doesn't expose a future child to undue risk, after all? Will you change you position then? Also, do you think that potential parents with strong dispositions to heart disease and so on should be sterilized so that their kids won't be exposed to "extra risks," too? You'll forgive the "libelous" exposure of the eugenicism (possibly unconscious?) embedded in your position yet again.

I'm trying to stop all GE, and that includes same-sex conception too.

Even if it ameliorates suffering, even if it treats hitherto untreatable conditions, even if it is wanted by informed, nonduressed consenting adults?

It means preserving everyone's conception rights, everyone's right to use their own unmodified genes

Ah, the freedom not to be free to make consensual recourse to wanted techniques, the freedom to incarnate always only the parochial bioconservative vision of what humanity should look like and act like, whatever their peers have to say about it.

Dale Carrico said...

It's funny we both accuse the other of being an elite making a ban, but, well, I'm right and your wrong. I want Congress to make a law that makes it a major crime to attempt to conceive a child that is not the union of a man and a woman's actual representative unmodified gametes.

Yeah, isn't it "funny" how I accuse you of being a tyrant when all you want is for "Congress to make a law that makes it a major crime to attempt to conceive a child that is not the union of a man and a woman's actual representative unmodified gametes." It's also funny how I say you seem to have a wee problem with the gay. Outrageous! Libel!

You want, presumably, a government agency, which will exist through clown administrations and even clowner adminstrations, that makes constant new rules and regulations and somehow prevents any labs from jumping the gun on any particular new technique before your agency says its OK.

Well, ya know, that's what regulation looks like. You act like I'm proposing some cr-a-a-a-azy new regime or something.

Progressives already know how corruptible regulatory and oversight processes are in principle and how utterly debauched they have actually become in the neoliberal era consummated by the Killer Clown Administration -- but few propose junking rather than reforming these apparatuses in light of this understanding.

What, you don't like the EPA and OSHA just because Bush has screwed them up so royally? No, we fight to end the conflicts of interest, reverse the deregulatory trend, tighten the standards, make the processes more transparent, and so on.

If an actual consensus of scientists propose that the basic science has reached a level that suggests clinical trials of a hitherto untried technique are warranted, then in a world that is operating as it should (and can if we make it so) I disagree that this is an evil thing to do. If informed nonduressed adults would make consensual recourse to emerging techniques eventuating from such a process of regulation and testing I disagree that this is an evil thing to do either.

Bioconservative fearmongering aside, people overwhelmingly like the idea of emerging medical treatments for hitherto untreatable conditions, but they want these treatments to be as safe as possible and deserve access to reliable knowledge and the security of income and basic care that ensures that they are not duressed in the decisions they come to. This seems exactly right to me, too.

Saying that it shouldn't be done until it is safe is meaningless because you don't have any idea how that determination would be made and how you would justify telling a gay couple that wants to try it anyway that the government doesn't think it is safe yet, but maybe next year it will be.

Again, it seems to me that we already have both professional organizations and regulative and administrative and legal apparatuses making decisions of this kind countless times every day.

As I have already said, I do happen to think it's true that emerging genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive techniques that will be wanted will include non-normalizing ones that trouble traditional progressive intuitions about universal standards of care and demand a shift into a norms of universal access and substantial consent (substantial consent backed by real knowledge and real security, not the vacuous pro forma consent of duressed market outcomes). But this is not a shift that demands a jettisoning of administrative apparatuses that are already functioning today and familiar to everybody.

I don't see how you are going to tell the libertarians that it is not safe enough to try yet.

I don't think libertarians want to harm their kids, so if it isn't safe tell them why and the overwhelming majority will do the right thing. They will certainly benefit, as always, from life in a non-libertopian society that doesn't barrage them with fraudulent hype and misinformation from cynical for-profit health-providers (because that should be illegal).

But if libertarians want to go ahead and do actually unsafe things -- and by unsafe I am assuming you don't just mean either "unnatural" or "sub-otimal" but actually reckless (on a reasonable person standard) or demonstrably lethal things -- then I daresay they can be stopped in the same way that they can be stopped from murder or theft even if they want to commit them. With laws.

Tell me the mechanism, tell me, why are you not agreeing with me that it should be banned right now?

In perpetuity?

Right now it is legal!

So de facto are anti-gravity boots, but if clinical trials for same-sex conception are actually being contemplated then of course professional medical organizations and government regulators will be stepping in to oversee what is afoot. Are you mad?

Right now any lab in the country could create an embryo however they want and implant it in a uterus (except Missouri, where they prohibit the implanting part). I smell something again.

Me too. Your paranoia.

I love how creationist anti-abortionist Missouri is your enlightened bioconservative utopia.

Look, if patients are being used as test subjects for actually risky unprecedented medical procedures without oversight, social workers with clipboards and sensible shoes, swarms of regulators, schools of muckracking journalists swimming everywhere, raftloads of professional reputations at stake, and armies of lawyers on hand -- you can be sure I will be right there on the barricades with you.

Even then I won't demand a ban in perpetuity, because I see no compelling reason (I could definitely be persuaded otherwise with actual reasons and evidence) to think that safe same-sex conception can be made available soon enough.