An International Conversation

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  mermat 7 months ago.

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  • #5809

    JoshE
    Participant

    In chapter 7 of Our Grandchildren Redesigned, Prof. Bess argues that once biomedical enhancements become a reality the only possible outcome is that they will be made available for all people regardless of income. Do you think the American people are currently prepared for a program of this nature? I find similarities between providing genetic enhancements and universal healthcare. Thus far, the capitalist bloc in America has been outspoken against the Affordable Care Act and universal coverage and I don’t see any reason to expect a difference in peoples’ attitudes toward genetic enhancements, unless the American mindset changes before the development of extreme enhancements. That being said, although the United States’ policies will be important, I believe in an increasingly globalized world, the policies of all countries around the world will need to be coordinated. If one country begins using enhancements to gain a superior edge, others will be forced to oblige, just as Prof. Bess notes with the textile industry during the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, I believe it is of the utmost importance to have an international conversation incorporating all countries in the world. Considering technology has made global communication not only cheap but also necessary, it is imperative that something as monumental as human enhancement is considered on the global stage. The focus of the discussion should be open dialogue regarding the development of potential enhancement technologies and science and the development of international policies for human enhancement that can be agreed upon by the majority of countries.

  • #5810

    czyzzzz
    Participant

    I think we should not think of biomedical enhancement too much different from other technologies. Sure this technology can directly improve the welfare of humans, there are many other technologies that are similar. Whether it is fair for some people to use this technology depends on how many people are using it. For example, not many people will argue that it is unfair for some to own their yachts. This is because only so few people can purchase their own yachts and it is almost impossible for everyone to own a yacht considering its high cost. On the other hand, there are many people trying to help the very poor to acquire enough food and clean water. This is because so many people are already having such living standards and it seems unfair for those to suffer malnutrition just because they are born in poor places. If biomedical enhancement is very expensive, which is very likely at the early stage of this technology, it is not possible for everyone to receive such treatment. As the technology become well developed and the cost can be lowered, more people will be receiving the treatment and then it’s the time for some to argue that everyone should receive biomedical enhancement.

    When we consider biomedical enhancement in between countries, we should consider it just simply as a military weapon or a business product. If biomedical enhancement is used as a weapon and if it has proven results, then the countries that can afford it will choose to develop or purchase the technology. If biomedical enhancement is simply a product for whoever can buy it, then it does not matter which nationality you are. Whoever can afford it will buy it like any other luxury products.

  • #5820

    jossarsd
    Participant

    While I admire JoshE and Bess’s idea that we should have an international conversation about bioenhancements in order to create a global policy to ensure that enhancements do not become an arms race and lead to a caste system of haves and have-nots, I am not sure that even if this conversation takes place that Bess’s main fear of a fragmentation of the human species will be alleviated. Setting a policy that affects the whole world and ensures that enhancements do not outpace our understandings of them would be a monumental and worthwhile event, but it would not ensure that there is equal access to these enhancements for all people.

    I think JoshE might be a bit confused, as Bess does not think that “the only possible outcome is that they will be made available for all people regardless of income,” but rather that this would be the most ideal outcome and possibly the only way to prevent speciation based on differing levels and types of enhancements. That being said, I agree with JoshE in that countries like the United States that cannot even decide upon universal healthcare will have a hard time deciding to give equal access to all people. Even if countries on an individual level do decide to do this (probably following a model of the Northwestern European countries that will be the first to universalize enhancements), I see little reason to believe that access to enhancements will be equalized across the entire globe. For example, the American people would probably be outraged if the government decided to extend the same types of enhancements we are getting to the people of Afghanistan.

    Therefore, even if a global conversation took place and a policy that protected against an arms race were enacted, and if countries were able to establish a program to dole out these enhancements to all their citizens, I think there will likely still be a sort of caste system on the global scale as the poorer countries will eternally lag behind the richer countries where research is being done.

  • #5828

    Michael Bess
    Keymaster

    I think the example of “access to yachts” vs “access to food” is an intriguing one, because it illustrates one important feature of bioenhancements that would be very different from other expensive luxury items like yachts: whereas owning a yacht does not greatly alter your ability to compete, make money, or find new opportunities, adopting bioenhancements does precisely that. Bioenhancement is a luxury item that opens the door for an ever-expanding set of capabilities, which in turn can be used to acquire even more purchasing power and still more enhancements. This is why it not only reproduces or reflects existing disparities of wealth and power, but has the potential to radically increase them over time.

  • #5874

    janderson
    Participant

    I am currently in a class on globalization and it has been interesting to see the parallels between that class and how relevant it is to the discussion of bio enhancements. One scenario that I do find likely is that whoever harnesses the next big step of bio enhancement, likely something concerning AI or pharmaceuticals, might lead to a “Cold War” type scenario if that country is perceived as a threat. Recently, the Iran Nuclear Deal has been an effort to mediate Iran’s nuclear capabilities. I forsee similar blocks or deals being made to countries that are perhaps not prepared to use such technologies. Returning to the topic of globalization, there are strict rules in place about the pricing and trade of certain pharmaceuticals. As this industry starts to advance to produce more unique and powerful bio enhancements, access internationally varies by each country’s regulations and markets. Wherever the next spring of bioenhancements occurs, it will have to be tested in one’s own country first. The success of this will determine if it could or should have the ability to globalize.

  • #5902

    Osetj
    Participant

    I think the way in which bio enhancements would become available to larger segments of the population is more similar to the way in which cell phones have become more available than to the way in which healthcare has become more available. Cell phones began as large, inefficient, and expensive machines that were only available to some. At the beginning, it is likely that the same will be true for bio enhancements. However, as time progresses and the true potential of biotechnologies are seen, companies will begin to invest enormous amounts of money into better methods for their creation, implementation, and use. This investment will cause them to get smaller, more easily placed into the human body, cheaper, and better overall. Once this advancement occurs, they will be widespread enough that they will become easily accessible for people at every income level regardless of government intervention.

  • #5930

    JFerg
    Participant

    I agree with czyzzz’s post, in terms of access to bio-enhancements in the United States. In addition, I think there will be a period of time in which bio-enhancements will be expensive, but as newer, more advanced biotechnologies are produced, the older models and weaker bio-enhancements will reduce in price. If health insurance companies can afford the weaker bio-enhancements, then they will be covered in their products. In fact, I believe that the government will urge the insurance companies to cover bio-enhancements because the population will see enhancement as a requirement to leading a respectable life. This can be likened to today’s standards of owning a computer or a cell-phone. If you do not have either of these items, you will struggle in finding a job or staying in contact with people, making these technologies necessary for having a respectable life.

    In terms of globalizing biotechnologies, I believe that there will eventually be humanitarian efforts to spread access to weaker bio-enhancements. I could see this being implemented by groups like doctors without borders. In the same way that groups provide eye care and glasses to foreign individuals that need it most, we will eventually see bio-enhancements being given to people who would not otherwise have access.

  • #5936

    mermat
    Participant

    I believe that the best way to imagine this is that there could be a baseline level of bioenhancement care that everyone would receive, and that going beyond that would cost more. I don’t argue that this is the best way the system would work–of course, if bioenhancements became the norm to the point that healthcare access needed to expand to include all of them, then I would argue that complete coverage would be necessary, even if implausible–but I could see the former system becoming the norm.

    I don’t see dominant American ideals, at least, being progressive enough to catch up to technology, at whatever speed the latter takes. We typically change our ideals in response to the technologies we create, because we don’t yet know what safeguards will need to be put in place until they are created. For instance, the internet was an unregulated host for hackers and privacy breaches before regulation was recognized as a need.

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