Democratic Transhumanism 2.0

Posted in Ethics, Future, Human Enhancement, Politic, Technology, Transhumanism at 7:48 am by rheil

James Hughes: Democratic Transhumanism 2.0


(»Biopolitics is emerging as an axis of modern politics alongside economic politics and cultural politics. Transhumanists, people who embrace technologies that extend and enhance regardless of their effect on “natural” life spans, limitations or social institutions, are the progressive end of the new biopolitical continuum. BioLuddites, who call for bans on technologies that threaten the “natural,” are conservative end of the new biopolitics.

But biopolitics only complicates the preexisting political landscape, they doesn’t supplant it. There are Christian fundamentalists, centrists and socialist-feminists forming alliances to to oppose human genetic engineering and nanotechnology. But the transhumanists are, so far, much less diverse, mostly adhering to one or another flavor of libertarianism. Democratic transhumanists, pro-scitech social democrats or Left technoutopians are conspicuously absent from their theoretical niche in this new political landscape. This essay is an attempt to identify democratic transhumanists and urge their coalescence.

Democratic transhumanism stems from the assertion that human beings will generally be happier when they take rational control of the natural and social forces that control their lives. Faith in science and democracy was more closely linked in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and technoutopian radicals dominated its shadow, the romantic Left Luddites. Since World War Two however Luddism has superceded technooptimism on the Left, while libertarians have become the leading champions of technology. Luddism has also risen to ascendence in Western bioethics, which has a professional interest in fear-mongering about new technologies. President Bush’s new Bioethics Commission and the struggle over embryo use in research makes clear the increasingly important role that bioethicists will play in the emerging biopolitics.

I argue why democrats should embrace science, technology and transhumanism: (1) left Luddism inappropriately equates technologies with the power relations around those technologies; democratic technology policy requires an acknowledgement of the potential benefits of technology, not simply a futile effort to slow all technological innovation. (2) Technology can help us transcend some of the fundamental causes of inequalities of power. (3) Left Luddism is boring and depressing; it has no energy to inspire movements to create a new and better society.

Then I argue that the libertarian transhumanists need to engage with democracy since (1) state action is required to address catastrophic threats from transhumanist technologies; (2) only believable and effective state-based policies to prevent catastrophic consequences from new technologies will reassure skittish publics that they do not have to be banned; (3) social policies must explicitly address public concerns that biotechnology will exacerbate social inequality; (4) monopolistic practices and overly restrictive intellectual property law can seriously delay the development of transhuman technologies, and restrict their access; (5) only alliances with other cultural and biological minorities, and a strong liberal democratic society and state can ensure that posthumans are not persecuted; and (6) libertarian transhumanists are inconsistent in arguing for the free market on the grounds of its evolved “naturalness” when transhumanists are champions of the artificial.

Finally, I present a eleven-point program for democratic transhumanists: (1) Build the transhumanist movement, (2) Guarantee morphological freedom and bodily autonomy, (3) Defend scientific research from Luddite bans, while embracing legitimate safety and efficacy regulations, (4) Protect scientific access to knowledge from overly aggressive intellectual property law, (5) Expand federal funding for research into transhuman technologies, (6) Create national health plans which include transhuman tech, (7) Expand federal support to education, (8) Provide job retraining and an income to the structurally unemployed, (9) Solidarize with sexual, cultural, and racial minorities, especially with morphological minorities such as the disabled and transgendered, (10) Support rights for Great Apes, dolphins and whales, (11) Strengthen democratic world government. [...]«)

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