Transhumanism vs Democracy

I’ve been saying this to various friends for a while and Ronald Bailey says it in Reason more concisely:

Politics in the 21st century will cut across the traditional political left/right rift of the last two centuries. Instead, the chief ideological divide will be between transhumanists and bioconservatives/bioluddites.

In the 18th Century, the Framers of the American Constitution debated whether slaves should count in aportioning representation. The slave owners wanted them to count more because it would increase their power. The free states wanted them to count less because property can’t vote. The result was the “three fifths compromise” counting slaves as three-fifths of a whole person. As transhumanism moves forward, we will be reviving this debate. Do de-encephalized clones count in the census? What about clones in general as they will be more likely to share the original’s political preferences? Are sufficiently modified humans still human enough to vote? They may have preferences, but those preferences may be determined by the gadgets implanted into their heads rather than randomly based on environmental factors. Should unmodified humans be voting as they may be obviously stupider than their transformed counterparts?

At a less esoteric level, will be be coercing people to accept certain treatments (in the same way we coerce immunization)? What are the boundaries here? How dangerous is this?

On the other hand, will be be allowing people to undertake arbitratry treatments? How will they be stopped? How do we protect ourselves from the bio-transformative virus produced in our neighbors kitchen? What about their dogs?


3 Responses to Transhumanism vs Democracy

  1. ooghe says:

    still reading here.. just been a bit busy lately- but actually most of what you’ve been posting lately I more or less agree with (if I’m familiar with the subject) except for minor quibbles. Transhumanism is a whole ball of wax where I don’t even know where to begin, although to the degree it sounds like some new-agey term for technological determinism i’m leery of it, yet I like the idea of clone research being able to proceed. So clearly I have to think about it more.

    Regarding Big vs. Small: nothing you are saying is wrong, although I would note that ‘letting individuals negotiate differences among themselves’ is what representative government is intended to allow, in that it allows negotiation to occur.

    Agreed, MSM silence on Darfur has been deafening, and although I laud your moral outrage after seeing that movie, I disagree with your projecting a left/right analysis onto that genocide or onto human rights issues in general. Most of the people I know risking their lives in Darfur are doing so as part of liberal humanitarian groups, although I recognize that many neo-conservatives are genuine in their cause to promote social justice. Grounds, certainly, for an interesting debate. Unfortunately, I think that in the coming decades both liberal interventionism and neoconservatism are going to recede into the background of policy-making, and that gritty geopolitical calculations regarding the rise of China will tend to dictate policy.

    and, last but not least, CNN CommentSpam sounds incredibly evil.

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