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

Monday, April 21, 2008

Diminishing Returns

Edifying though it has been, the exchange with John Howard seems to be hitting a wall. We'll see if he comes up with anything provocative or useful when he cools down, but in case he doesn't and in the meantime I was trying to think which of these many posts over the last week or so most deserves to get anthologized, since many of them cover the same basic ground. Any of these feel to you like they deserve collection more than others -- and where should I put them? There is always a weird overlap between the superlative critiques, the bioconservative critiques, the eugenicist critiques, and the pluralist arguments. Since so many of these recent ones have highlighted the bioconservative/transhumanist/eugenicist parallelism they are even harder than usual to place. Hmmmmmm.

34 comments:

John Howard said...

From an earlier thread, in the spirit of wrapping this up:
Your sudden concern for the bureaucracy attaching to the provision of wanted useful services is an obvious panic-stricken attempt at distraction, especially coming from somebody willing to champion a full-on police state to impose his parochial vision on those who disagree with him.

That hasn't been a "sudden concern" at all, though looking back, I was slow to bring it up here. But back on the 14th I said: "One thing I think your not taking into account is that banning genetic modification in perpetuity will have major benefits. You assume that it will just cut us off from possible benefits (or harms), but you assume that it wil leave the world unchanged, just as it is. I think you should consider that not only will we be able to divert huge amounts of medical resources back into working on cures and cares for existing people, but it will also have a great psychic effect on our outlooks toward the future. We will have to stop thinking that some scientific advance by some elite group of scientists will fix everything for us and realize that the future is in all of our hands. Instead of thiking that we are unfit for each other, not worthy of passing on our genes, we will be told that we are as fit and worthy as anyone. It will be empowering and respecting of each of our lives.
Genetic engineering has a huge carbon footprint, thousands of people driving to labs everyday, and then if they discover some cure for Alzheimers that requires everyone to get their gametes modified, it will mean that what once took some physical activity in the dark now must take teams of lab workers and computers and government regulators all working full time on every conception."

The need for huge government agencies to determine what is and isn't safe enough or ethical enough I've brought up many times here, and certainly in my arguments elsewhere. And this is where the arbitrary police state comes in, because if there is going to be a regulatory board, there will need to be a regulatory army, and their decisions will all be very arbitrary, or at least they will seem that way. Sure, they will be based on waiting for x number of studies about something, but they will also be subject to public and media demands and hype and hope. It will indeed require a police state to enforce a blanket ban also (and I've never denied that there would be harsh punishments and various methods of policing (sting operations, whistle-blower rewards, monitoring classified ads) to make sure no lab is offering to create children using modified genes. Mostly the scientists would police themselves, and in fact they would welcome clear guidelines that aren't changing every year. That would take a much smaller police presence than one that had to differentiate between labs that were doing treatment-x but refraining from doing treatment-y, and keeping track of which one was legal and which one wasn't. Your way would require that "army of lawyers and sensible shoes" you talked about, mine Gomer Pyle could do between donut runs. My way doesn't call for any new policing agency, the laws do all the work themselves, by virtue of their blanket nature and harsh penalties.

And I wish you would give me more credit for being democratic. It's not about me imposing a ban on people who disagree with me, it's about getting Congress to deliberate on the costs and benefits of enacting a ban on germline GE and all other methods of impossible-if-healthy conceptions, and preserving everyone's conception rights, and recognizing same-sex civil unions if they are defined as being just like marriage but not granting conception rights. Congress would do that, democratically.

This issue should be before the public, it shoudl be part of the Presidential debates. Which candidates do you think support same-sex conception and genetic modification, and which do you think would support a ban? Isn't it undemocratic that we have no idea? That most people are completely ignorant of the fact that these issues are theirs to be decided? Don't you think it is wrong and undemocratic that they are being hidden from the public and allowed to be developed pretty much in secret, because only the elite people who desire them understand them?

Queen Maxine said...

Any of these feel to you like they deserve collection more than others -- and where should I put them?

Well, I just adore the post where John Howard humbly suggests you might be a "fucking transhumanist eugenicist bullshit spouting asshole if there ever was one." And where you fairly counter by indicating he might perhaps be a crybaby, pedophile, homophobic, willy-wagging bioconman.

If I'm not mistaken, this post is entitled Calling Names and Making Change -- a seemingly prescient title (to any just dropping in).

Regardless, you should create a left-column link that reads Self-Referential Irony and points to this exemplary piece. After watching you two raving lunatics p2peeing all over each other, surfers will have a reference point for further exploration of the topic by way of your many other blog posts that end, well, pretty much the same way.

And you wonder why I'm here...

Dale Carrico said...

I wish you would give me more credit for being democratic. It's not about me imposing a ban on people who disagree with me, it's about getting Congress to deliberate on the costs and benefits of enacting a ban on germline GE and all other methods of impossible-if-healthy conceptions, and preserving everyone's conception rights, and recognizing same-sex civil unions if they are defined as being just like marriage but not granting conception rights. Congress would do that, democratically.

I would have given you credit if you had ever once expressed that attitude in the past. I agree with you that a public debate would be a good idea even if I were to disagree with your positions in it.

Dale Carrico said...

Thank you Maxine for your contribution and continuing support.

John Howard said...

But shouldn't it have been obvious? How else could GE be prohibited except by Congress.

Btw, I'm sorry I got carried away and sullied your fine blog with bad language and insults. Hopefully everyone will find it humorous like Maxine did.

Dale Carrico said...

I'm sorry I got carried away and sullied your fine blog with bad language and insults.

Don't give it a thought, we were snapping at each other, so what? It's blogging. There's substance, there's snapping, there's sniping, there's singalongs. We're "p2peeing" as Maxine declaims with a regal wave to the plebs from her rhinestone coach. Bad language I can deal with, bioconservative bans are where you get into hot water with me.

AnneC said...

I must confess, I LOL'ed like a LOLcat at the phrase "p2peeing". :D

Mir said...

hi,

did you read that one from Nick Bostrom? What's your comment?

http://www.nickbostrom.com/utopia.html

Dale Carrico said...

I find it, to be honest, almost unreadably bad (unlike Bostrom's still speculative but more conventionally argumentative interventions, which are often usefully provocative even where I don't find them finally compelling), these occasional forays into "inspirational" and "promotional" transhumanist literature are redeemed for me, I fear, only by their moments of high camp value.

To shift or enlarge the subject a bit, I must say that the same thing goes, in my opinion, for the visual arts that seem overwhelmingly to arise out of transhumanist-identified sub(cult)ure: tits-and-ass truckstop calendar imagery with circuit boards in the background, recycled vaseline-on-the-lens Italian Renaissance imagery with new-age corporatist titles like "Be Your Best!" "Prevail Over Limits!" images ripped off from anime in ways that tend to reek of testosterone and to be uncritically celebratory of the very moments that would express ambivalence or even horror when embedded in their actual narrative contexts in anime, glossy hard-enameled candy-tech selling "the future" like teevee commercials sell cheap sunglasses and boner pills.

Michael Anissimov said...

If we're going to talk about subculture, I actually prefer a calmer, more feminized environment with togas & crystal spires. Remember that many transhumanists are geeks who resent excessive masculinity.

Transhumanism can't help but take some imagery from anime, simply because anime has gone the furthest in actually exploring transhuman scenarios.

Dale Carrico said...

It is not by your defensive protests to the contrary but by your actual actions that you are known, Michael. Google exists, and it is not necessarily your friend here.

In your comment about how anime has gone "furthest" (along what road toward what end exactly?) you betray utter cluelessness -- anime's images are commentaries on the historical legacies of nuclear attack, corporate imperialism, forced rapid disruptive industrialization, ubitquitous consumerism, multicultural complications of traditional norms in the present.

The anxieties they work through so masterfully are quite old anxieties. You misread as predictions what are working artistically more forcefully (at least usually) as symbols, symptoms, archetypal citations. There's a distinction between art and propaganda (even for... THE FUTURE! tm).

jfehlinger said...

> . . .tits-and-ass truckstop calendar imagery. . .

Speaking of which, plenty of both (of boths sexes)
in the incomparable Syd Mead's futuristic
cocktail parties.

http://www.sydmead.com/v/01/bookstore/
(click Kronoteko; in smaller window,
click upper middle and lower right thumbnails)

I have to admit I like this stuff a lot.

Michael Anissimov said...

Anime has gone furthest how showing that technologies like augmented reality, cybernetics, and AI can be a part of realistic societies. It dismisses the sensationalism of Luddite perspectives on how more technology invariably leads to hubristic punishment from the gods.

By "furthest" I mean it's been among the first visual genres to admit that cybernetics could be a widespread technology in just a few decades, and that it will come with ups and downs, just like any technology.

And yes, it criticizes all that other stuff you talk about too.

Currently I'm reading Helen Caldicott's "The New Nuclear Danger", which I'm sure you'd like.

Robin said...

showing that technologies like augmented reality, cybernetics, and AI can be a part of realistic societies.

What makes them realistic societies? I see anime and think, "boy, they've got AI - so either they've got magic or this is some wildly distant future (certainly not a few decades). It's the visions of cybernetics themselves that make anime NOT realistic.

Well, that, and all the tentacle sex. Though I don't hear a lot of people calling that realistic, either.

Unfortunately...

Richard Jones said...

I'm surprised that John Howard thinks that regulating these technologies is such a big deal. Currently, for example, there are bans or restrictions on pluripotent stem cell derived gametes in 14 countries. In my own country, the UK, there's a bill currently going through parliament which will permit research but prohibit, for the moment, their use in fertility treatment. This seems right to me, not because such use would contravene some standard of naturalness or permit same-sex reproduction, but because in the current state of knowledge this would be unacceptably risky. The authority that regulates such things in the UK is the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, which doesn't seem much like a regulatory police state to me. I often walk past its headquarters in a terraced house in Bloomsbury, which houses maybe a dozen permanent staff. The actual members of the authority are all part-time, and after they make their deliberations and issue their judgements they go back to their day jobs as moral philosophers, infertility doctors, bishops, coordinators of patient advocacy groups or whatever. The reason they don't need a lot of specific resource for enforcement is simply because medicine is highly regulated anyway, and the same mechanisms that regulate all its other aspects are used here.

I don't entirely understand the sense in which John Howard uses the term "genetic engineering" as something that needs to be subject to a blanket ban. Actually, there's no absolute necessity for the process of making gametes from pluripotent stem cells to use genetic engineering at all. The most likely route at the moment, using so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, does use genetic engineering but this is merely incidental and many scientists believe that a route without using GE will be possible soon.

PSCDG's do, of course, facilitate the possibility of germ-line genetic engineering, but then so does conventional IVF. John Howard would like to ban IVF too, which has the virtue of a certain clarity, though I have to say I find it unimaginable that one would find democratic support for this position. Certainly this would be true in the UK and Europe, maybe things are different in the USA - the procedure is so widespread I think you'd be hard pushed to find anyone who isn't personally touched in some way by it. Even without direct experience, when one knows that one's friends' or acquaintances' charming and loved children came into the world this way, it's difficult to find a lot of evil in it.

With regard to genetic engineering per se, very little of it is actually directed towards human reproduction. It's certainly true that modern biology and biomedical science is a big activity, and genetic engineering is a widespread and central technique within it, but this has very little to do with issues like germ-line genetic engineering. Most people doing GE in labs are using it as a technical tool to work out details of biology, and then using to make therapeutic compounds, typically proteins and perhaps in the future nucleic acids. A majority of new drug candidates are made this way (a good example would be the breast cancer drug herceptin) and if you were to turn your back on these approaches I don't think there'd be much hope for new drugs for intractable diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's.

Transhumanists look forward to germ-line genetic engineering with enthusiasm, and bioconservatives, regard it with horror. I can't say I'm massively enthusiastic about it myself, but this is more because I can't see it actually delivering enough to meet either these hopes or fears. It seems to me to be another area where, with the passage of time, we don't see so much accelerating change to a future that fascinates or appalls, but the recognition that everything seems more complicated than it once seemed. Certainly, in the 8 years since the human genome was published, the idea that most diseases would be simply associated with genetic faults that could easily be corrected seems a lot more further away. If any progress is to be made in Alzheimer's disease, it isn't going to be through germ-line GE.

With regards to Nick Bostrom's letter from Utopia, I quite liked Andy Miah's reply:
http://www.andymiah.net/documents/Miah2008LetterToUtopiaSELT.pdf

John Howard said...

In my own country, the UK, there's a bill currently going through parliament which will permit research but prohibit, for the moment, their use in fertility treatment. This seems right to me, not because such use would contravene some standard of naturalness or permit same-sex reproduction, but because in the current state of knowledge this would be unacceptably risky.

I know about that, and wish we discussed the issue in Congress with the same seriousness other countries do. We should also currently have a ban on The thing is, risk is not a useful measure for whether or not to allow people to conceive together. If we introduced the idea that conceptions had to be "safe", it would mean that only the fittest people were allowed to reproduce, and people with various problems would be subject to a conception ban. We have to preserve marriage's right to conceive using the couple's own genes and bodies regardless of risk. And the right reason to ban artificial gametes and other ways of creating genome besides combine a man and a woman's actual gametes is to preserve that as the standard, to prevent 'better' ways from coercing away people's right to use their own gametes, and to keep everyone created equal, as sexually reproduced children of their mother and father, without lab intervention in their genes.

The reason they don't need a lot of specific resource for enforcement is simply because medicine is highly regulated anyway, and the same mechanisms that regulate all its other aspects are used here.

In the US, the fertility industry is notoriously unregulated. Like, zero regulations, zero liability, and only enough ethics to pretend there is a concern for ethics, in order to ward off regulation.

I don't entirely understand the sense in which John Howard uses the term "genetic engineering" as something that needs to be subject to a blanket ban.

Everything that creates a genome that is different from a genome that would be created if two people conceived with their unmodified gametes is genetic engineering. Engineering means literally "changing" the genes. That should not be allowed.

Actually, there's no absolute necessity for the process of making gametes from pluripotent stem cells to use genetic engineering at all. The most likely route at the moment, using so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, does use genetic engineering but this is merely incidental and many scientists believe that a route without using GE will be possible soon.

But reversing the imprinting to allow same-sex conception will by definition involve changing the genome, even if the sequence is not changed, the epigenetic imprinting is most definitely changed. Creating "replacement" gametes from stem cells for someone who has lost or never had the ability to create gametes would not be changing the genome, and also it would qualify as medicine, because the intention is to restore health, and therefore would be protected by medical and marital privacy anyhow. As long as the process created gametes that were believed to be indistinguishable for the gametes that person would have if they were healthy, it wouldn't be banned by this ban. I'd be against creating artificial gametes in the lab anyhow, like I'm against IVF, because I think children shouldn't be wanted and shouldn't be forced into existence, though I think helping people be healthy and fertile for sexual intercourse is appropriate medicine.

PSCDG's do, of course, facilitate the possibility of germ-line genetic engineering, but then so does conventional IVF. John Howard would like to ban IVF too, which has the virtue of a certain clarity, though I have to say I find it unimaginable that one would find democratic support for this position.

Right, we probably couldn't ban IVF or PSCDG because of medical privacy and marital privacy and because IVF at least is already so heavily used, there'd be no support for that idea. But they don't have to be banned to ban germline GE or SSC. There is loads of support for banning germline GE (designer babies?!) and same-sex conception (gay marriage?!).

With regard to genetic engineering per se, very little of it is actually directed towards human reproduction. It's certainly true that modern biology and biomedical science is a big activity, and genetic engineering is a widespread and central technique within it, but this has very little to do with issues like germ-line genetic engineering. Most people doing GE in labs are using it as a technical tool to work out details of biology, and then using to make therapeutic compounds, typically proteins and perhaps in the future nucleic acids.

Right, and that stuff wouldn't be banned by the ban on conceiving children by any means other than fertilization of an egg of a woman by a sperm of a man.

Transhumanists look forward to germ-line genetic engineering with enthusiasm, and bioconservatives, regard it with horror.

Exactly right - and Dale looks forward to germ-line genetic engineering with enthusiasm. Ergo Dale: search your feelings, you *know* it to be true!

I can't say I'm massively enthusiastic about it myself, but this is more because I can't see it actually delivering enough to meet either these hopes or fears.

And again, it's not just because of bad things that it might bring that it should be banned, but because of the waste of energy and effort, the misplaced priority, the lost oportunity for focusing on health care, the way it would relieve angst and ennui to suddenly have our natural human rights validated, the message it would send by ruling it out would be so positive, it is just the sort of reprioritization that we need to do right now. Going forward with this status quo is such an asshole thing to do.

Greg in Portland said...

angst and ennui

The true core of Howard's argument. Apparently he can't find "Sartre" or "Camus" in the stacks of his library to effect a self-cure. So sad.

Dale Carrico said...

I am enthusiastic about individual informed nonduressed consensual recourse to as well as disinterest in particular medical techniques, whether normalizing or not, whether old-fashioned or emerging, whenever they are actually wanted, well regulated, and reasonably safe, especially to the extent that progressives can make them universally available and struggle to make the risks, costs, and benefits of their development fair. This is a mainstream progressive position as far as I can see.

I don't even think about "technology" in the way demonized or fetishized by stupid bioconservatives and transhumanists. I don't believe there is a monolithic technological "it" to be "enthusiastic" about. I don't believe in "technology" in general, I abhor the notion of the customary treated as "natural" (bioconservatism) or the parochial treated as "optimal" (transhumanism). My enthusiasm comes from consensual practices that solve shared problems and contribute to free lifeway multiculture.

Transhumanism at worst is an outright Robot Cult filled with people who behave like cultists always do, and even at its best represents an undercritically hyperbolic technology-centered discourse distorting technodevelopmental social struggle into essentially theological terms coupled with subcultural identity politics.

John Howard calling me a transhumanist "deep down" or in my "heart of hearts" or "unbeknownst to myself" or "in a closeted" fashion is really flabbergastingly ignorant given how much time I've devoted to critique of transhumanism and its fellow-travelers. More Up Is Down from Amor Mundi's favorite bioconservative sniper. Handwaving away all my critiques of transhumanist hyperbole as irrelevancies says, I hope, much more about the assumptions or psychological dynamics driving John Howard's bioconservative framing of the technodevelopmental terrain than it does about me.

Robin said...

My doctor gave me a cortisol shot in my foot because of a joint problem. It's clear he believes humans can overcome their biology and hence, he's a transhumanist.

peco said...

My doctor gave me a cortisol shot in my foot because of a joint problem. It's clear he believes humans can overcome their biology and hence, he's a transhumanist.

He believes some (some people don't believe it) things that transhumanists believe. It's still ridiculous to call him a transhumanist, though.

John Howard said...

I think it's pretty obvious that people that think germline gentic engineering would be a good thing are transhumanists. On top of that, some transhumanists also seem to desire cyborg/immortality/mind-uploading stuff, but as far as I'm concerned, the relevant trait is the opposition to a ban on germline GE. I don't think that is a standard progressive position, at least not after thinking about it seriously.

The core of my argument, Greg, is that it will be much better to rule out germline genetic engineering than to leave it unbanned. Reducing angst is only one benefit, but a very real one, as it would be replaced with a sense of purpose and worth. Increasing resources devoted to health care is probably the main positive benefit.

Dale Carrico said...

John Howard: some transhumanists also seem to desire cyborg/immortality/mind-uploading stuff, but as far as I'm concerned, the relevant trait is the opposition to a ban on germline GE.

Some Movement Conservatives use racism and fearmongering and pander to theocrats while installing a police state the better to loot and steal to make their rich worthless asshole friends even richer, but as far as I'm concerned the relevant trait is opposition to the ban on wearing white pumps after Labor Day.

John Howard said...

If you call me a bioconservative, then you also consider the relevant trait to be support for a ban on germline GE and same-sex conception. Would you call me that if I though germline GE should merely be regulated and safe?

Oh, and please show me an example of a Transhumanist who thinks GE should be done even if it unsafe and nonconsensual. Sure, you might find some who think it should be unregulated, but I think even you think it should be pretty much unregulated, left up to the informed educated experts (with the regulation only to stop quack sham doctors from doing things that might give it a bad image).

Dale Carrico said...

Would you call me [bioconservative] if I though[t] germline GE should merely be regulated and safe?

No, that is my own position, and I'm no more a bioconservative than a transhumanist.

show me an example of a Transhumanist who thinks GE should be done even if it unsafe and nonconsensual

Well, as it happens I think you probably could find transhumanists who would argue that early-adopters should be able to sign on to techniques not yet deemed safe enough for clinical trials, and I also think you can find huge numbers of transhumanists -- especially among the horrifically many market-libertarian types who throng that marginal sub(cult)ure -- who would be content to describe highly duressed circumstances as consensual simply because they reflected "market outcomes." I disapprove both attitudes.

Quite apart from that, I could have easily responded by saying: "Show me a transhumanist who is opposed to taking aspirin for a headache if that's all you can find in the medicine cabinet." So what?

What should matter to progressives is consensus science, fair development, and actual consent. What matters to transhumanists -- in my principle critique of them -- are the superlative aspirations with which they invest particular hypothetical technodevelopmental outcomes they happen to identify with sub(cult)urally.

You are just endlessly failing to get my point as far as I can see. I mean, that's fine, I don't expect everybody to agree with me by any means. But this is what what I mean by diminishing returns here. No matter how many ways I explain to you the conceptual absurdities and political problems inhering in transhumanist derangements of technodevelopmental discourse you'll just keep calling me a transhumanist anyway just because I won't sign onto your bioconservative ban of a not-yet developed procedure that would increase the sum of human happiness if it were safe, fairly distributed, and consented to.

What should matter to progressives is the science, the safety, the fairness, and the consent. Your disapproval of some different lifeways your informed nonduressed peers might freely and safely consent to sounds like a personal problem rather than a concern with justice to me.

John Howard said...

I totally get your point, you think you're not a transhumanist becasue they're crazy and you're not. You think consensus science will tell us when something is OK. I call you a transhumanist because you call me a bioconservative. I'd be happy to ditch the labels and simply discuss the merits of a ban on GE, which is what we shoudl be doing in this country. The labels don't help. (But I do think it is relevant that there are organized "Transhumanist" chapters all over the world of peopel who are dedicated to overcoming gender, doing germline GE to make "better humans", etc, and if the word helps raise people's sense of alarm, then it's good to let people know about Transhumanists.)

My point about "show me a transhumanist who thinks GE should be done even if its unsafe and non-consensual" was that you are not any different from them in principle. They might have different ideas about when it is safe or how much duress is OK, but that has been my point all along too - everyone has their own ideas about that, and they have nothing to do with whether or not we should allow it. Your aspirin-if-thats-all-there-is point misses the point: I don't think you can find a transhumanist who wants people to do unsafe conceptions or force people to use GE against their will, and they aren't just settling for consent and safety because that's "all that's in the cabinet", that's what they all want it to be too, just like you. Find me one that wants force, or doing it before it is safe.

And think about a couple 100 years from now that teh government knows would conceive an unhealthy child if they did it with their own genes. Will we find any Transhumanists today who will admit to feeling that they should be forced to use GE to have a healthy child? I doubt it. Yet, that is what will have to happen if they truly want to eradicate disease. But still I think they will all profess the same position as you that with education, the couple will freely choose to use GE, so they won't be coerced at all, it will be consensual.

Greg in Portland said...

The core of my argument, Greg, is that it will be much better to rule out germline genetic engineering than to leave it unbanned. Reducing angst is only one benefit, but a very real one, as it would be replaced with a sense of purpose and worth. Increasing resources devoted to health care is probably the main positive benefit.


No Johhny boy and I know by this time I shouldn't encourage you. As pointed out earlier your resource related arguments are absurd as they don't touch on the most obvious and most immense causes of the things you claim to be so concerned about. To wit, and to reiterate, health care is withheld from the poor in the US and other fascist nations by specific political factions that have nothing much to do with gays having kids. Want to do something about that - oppose the fucking fascists. Otherwise shut the fuck up.

As for your sense of angst. Well, I have huge angst over global warming, peak oil and now, I'm told the fact that people are now rioting over food. Should I demand a government subsidy of peyote or LSD to deal with this? Maybe so. I doubt I would mind, frankly it's becoming all too much to deal with and this atheist could use some of the counsel of the gods at this point even knowing that they're really just subpersonaities in my my own head.

Dale Carrico said...

I totally get your point, you think you're not a transhumanist becasue they're crazy and you're not.

Actually read what I write and you'll find that there may be more to my critique of transhumanism than the "point" you think you've "gotten."

I call you a transhumanist because you call me a bioconservative.

Those are far from the only two options on the table. But I wouldn't expect a bioconservative to Truly Believe that.

Robin said...

Reducing angst is only one benefit, but a very real one, as it would be replaced with a sense of purpose and worth.

Aside from being borderline nonsense, this is about the most bizarre argument ("argument") I've ever heard.

Where does the sense of purpose and worth come from? WHO experiences this sense of purpose and worth and WHY? I just don't understand this AT ALL. And I'm not an idiot. I assure you.

Eliminating individual choice does NOT produce purpose and worth, it REMOVES those things.

Please tell me where the purpose and worth are supposed to come from, and what they are. (If you say "god did it" this whole thing is over.)

John Howard said...

Robin, right now every has this sense that our genes are substandard and we are unworthy, and we should turn the world over to the superlative GE'd people who will be perfect and not make any mistakes or screw up like we do. We screw up and slack off because the technologists have given us an excuse to - it's because we are flawed and unworthy and stupid. So we don't even feel justified in being heterosexual today and having natural children with some other flawed human - today people choose the sperm AND the egg from catalogs and a professional healthy surrogate, and still feel angst about their parenting ability not being up to the standards of their perfet children.

When we get rule out germline GE and affirm the right (and the goodness) of every person to use their own genes to conceive with the person they love in this world, and thereby reject the technophile eugenicists who tell us that we suck and we need their technology to fix the world, then we will have put the responsibility to fix the world back on our own shoulders and we will suddenly have a sense of purpose and no excuses. Technology will once again be a tool in our hands rather than something that replaces us and is better than us.

Allowing the prospect of germline GE to continue to be held over our heads does real damage to our sense of purpose and responsibility, it turns us all into cynics and haters. Banning it would be a great thing, it woudln't just stop an inevitable horrible future of government controlled eugenics and gene wars and injustice and energy waste, it will create a bright one of people respecting each other and getting to work solving problems.

Dale Carrico said...

we don't even feel justified in being heterosexual today and having natural children with some other flawed human

Somebody needs to shut off his computer and make an appointment with his therapist.

Dale Carrico said...

Banning ["GE"] would be a great thing, it woudln't just stop an inevitable horrible future of government controlled eugenics and gene wars and injustice and energy waste, it will create a bright one of people respecting each other and getting to work solving problems.

A bright world of respecting each other except when they want things different from what I do and solving problems together except when the solutions people come up with are different than the ones I want, in which case the "bright," "respectful" and "problem-solving" future requires some serious busting of heads. Bioconservative Freedom's on the March!

John Howard said...

And you really don't feel that you are trying to impose the future you want on people? We all have to sit here and watch while a few people try to create people however they consent with each other to and want to, as long as they tell us it is safe?

Dale Carrico said...

And you really don't feel that you are trying to impose the future you want on people?

By making the world safe for open futures? No, John, I don't think that is an "imposition" on any sane characterization of that term. I think it is a very ugly and awful thing to feel imposed upon at the sight and prospect of the freedom of others. One should feel imposed upon and resist as unjust always only the sight or prospect of violence, duress, disenfranchisement, exploitation of one's peers in the world.

We all have to sit here and watch while a few people try to create people however they consent with each other to and want to, as long as they tell us it is safe?

Collaborate and contest in the making of the future with your peers. Nobody is telling you to sit back while "they" do what they want. The choice isn't tyranny by "us" versus tyranny by "them." It's called freedom, John.

If the only alternatives you see are the right to impose your will on human plurality or to passively acquiesce to oblivion that sounds like a personal problem to me.

To make the more interesting theoretical point here: We are them, in the political sense... This contingent, fragmentary political "we" is too diffuse to give us the necessary comfort of belonging, hence parochial morals still make their just demands on our time and their right contribution to our flourishing. But the formal universality of the ethical we, and the particular situatedness of the political we are not rightly grasped through the "friend/foe," the constitutive us/them of mores, of the moral we.

Damien Sullivan said...

Banning ["GE"] would be a great thing, it woudln't just stop an inevitable horrible future of government controlled eugenics and gene wars and injustice and energy waste, it will create a bright one of people respecting each other and getting to work solving problems.

Because the millennia when humans didn't even know what a gene was, let alone anticipate genetic engineering, are so infused with the recently lost spirit of respecting each other and working together to solve problems.

Or as a friend would say, "man what?"