Over at The Journal of Evolution and Technology we've published a new article by Nicholas Agar, in which he summarises some of the argument from his new book, Humanity's End.
Agar argues against what he classifies as radical enhancement, while distancing himself from bioconservative positions that oppose enhancement on principle. The abstract reads:
This paper summarizes a couple of the main arguments from my new book, Humanity’s End. In the book I argue against radical enhancement - the adjustment of human attributes and abilities to levels that greatly exceed what is currently possible for human beings. I’m curious to see what reaction this elicits in a journal whose readership includes some of radical enhancement’s most imaginative and committed advocates.
We'll be interested in receiving responses. Meanwhile, another sample:
In 2004 I published a book with the title Liberal Eugenics. It was a defense of genetic enhancement. So what’s a defender of enhancement doing turning around and attacking enhancement. Did I get religion?
Earlier in this piece, I suggested that the debate about human enhancement should mature beyond a simple duel between its opponents and defenders. A realistic, scientifically-informed presentation enables us to discriminate morally between different varieties and degrees of human enhancement. It reveals enhancement to be a way of treating human beings that can be good if practiced in moderation but dangerous if taken to extremes. Many of the influences humans direct at themselves fall into this category - drinking alcohol, exposure to direct sunlight, exercising, consuming saturated fats, and so on. Too much sun substantially elevates the risk of skin cancer. A moderate amount furnishes the body with requisite vitamin D. Alcoholism is a disease that destroys lives. But moderate drinking offers enjoyable experiences, promotes certain forms of sociability, and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
"bioconservative positions ... impose enhancement"?
Ugh, I'll correct it. I meant "oppose".
Of course. :)
From that summary, it seems his main worry is that posthumans could have interests and ethics incompatable with humans. Yet if posthumans really are the future of humanity, that seems akin to worrying about the welfare of telegraph operaters in our current world of wireless cummunications. Cultural (and biological) evolution will happen, and it's selfish and short-sighted to insist the current human form always have its interests and ethics valued over (or even alongside) those of our descendants.
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