Social Group's Direction of Technology in Relation to Human Redesign

Home Dialogue Page Human Redesign: Pharmaceuticals, Bioelectronics, and Genetics Social Group's Direction of Technology in Relation to Human Redesign

This topic contains 7 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  janderson 7 months ago.

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  • #5736


    In “The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts,” Pinch and Bijker assert that social groups decide the use, meaning, and specific design of technology based on their needs. Applying this theory to the concept of human redesign depicted in Our Grandchildren Redesigned, what do you think social groups would deem as the most pivotal technologies for human reengineering? Would social groups place greater emphasis on research and advancement in pharmaceutical, bioelectronics, or genetics enhancement? What would be the most popular use of these technologies? What stance would social groups take on modification? Would social groups be morally in support of the use of these enhancements to only boost existing traits or would social groups approve of adding traits as well? Would social groups only endorse enhancements for one’s intrinsic benefit rather than for competitive advantage? I believe that social groups are going to direct every aspect of human enhancement technology and largely shape the role of these technologies within our society.

  • #5747

    Michael Bess

    These are all fascinating questions that you raise. I suspect that the first part of answering them has to be: “It depends.” What it depends on is the nature of the specific social group in question — and I expect that there will my myriad varieties of such groupings and clusters, each forming around a particular set of values and aspirations and attitudes toward bioenhancement. So my counter-question to you would be: can you propose some concrete examples of the kinds of social groups you have in mind, and then speculate about how one group might differ from another in addressing these excellent questions that you pose above.

  • #5813


    The social groups that I believe would have the most prevalent influence on the use and direction of potential enhancement technologies are powerful corporations, orthodox religious groups, and early adopters. I believe that powerful corporations would advocate for bioenhancement, for their existence depends on the emergence and adoption of new technologies. Bioenhancement could prove to be an extraordinarily lucrative business which would only be bolstered by its exclusive nature. The other social group that I believe would advocate for bioenhancement technologies are early adopters who traditionally experiment with new technology. However, some early adopters might be less willing to experiment with bioenhancement technology than other technologies because in its infancy, bioenhancement technology would remain largely untested, and this adoption is far riskier than a technology that does not directly affect genetic or epigenetic makeup. The exception to this rule would be noninvasive bioenhancement technologies, which, for this reason, could prove to be the easiest bioenhancement technology to garner support for. Unlike powerful corporations and early adopters who would be more inclined to promote bioenhancement technologies, I believe that orthodox religious groups would provide strong opposition on the basis that bioenhancement alters the authenticity of a human being. The truly intriguing point of this discussion would be the intersection of these social groups and how that intersection could direct the future of bioenhancement. For example, a strictly religious CEO could be at the helm of a powerful corporation, and the CEO would therefore be forced to choose between his religious beliefs and the profitability of his company. Additionally, an early adopter ordinarily willing to experiment with new technology could be devoutly religious and therefore discount bioenhancement outright.

  • #5830

    Michael Bess

    These are all excellent points. What about professional groupings, like musicians, professional athletes, lawyers, artists, and so on? Might these groupings not also be expected to provide incentives for gradually divergent forms of enhancement?

  • #5879


    Professor Bess’s questions bring me back to the classic example of the the college graduate who is new to a law firm and is coerced into taking cognitive enhancers. As enhancements get more specific and more comprehensive, I image that professional groupings will provide incentives for gradually divergent forms of enhancement. As a soon to be college graduate, it’s easy for me to imagine those looking for jobs to be forced to invest, personally and financially, in enhancements that are specific to their desired profession. Imagine how hard it would be to become a lawyer if you were one of the few applicants who didn’t possess speed reading enhancement and memory enhancements, or a musician without perfect pitch and dexterity enhancements. Competition will drive the adoption and use of new technologies to gain an edge in specific professions, and we could see the design of enhancements that come in ‘athlete packages’ or ‘lawyer packages.’

    Adopting these enhancements will likely be a significant personal and financial investment, and it raises some interesting questions about whether the divergent enhancement Professor Bess brings up will create technological wedges between groups. Given the significant modifications that success in their profession requires, will lawyers only want to hang out with other lawyers? Will this competitive pressure to enhance for a profession trickle down to parents making choices for their children? Will changing careers no longer be possible?

  • #5881

    Spencer Robbins

    MaxS brings up some good points and I strongly agree that the cost of not taking part in the career-oriented enhancements would be too great for most applicants and even those already established in the field. The question I would like to raise is that are we sure this career-specific specialization of the young population will not be harmful in terms of losing well-rounded individuals? Would specialization based on competitive advantages (here through enhancement) make all better off as in world economics, or would a lack of well roundedness endanger our humanity and social interactions as we know them?

  • #5889


    I am not really concerned about losing the value of well rounded individuals due to specialization. I think that given the fact that humans will have increased life spans there will be more time to participate at a higher level across many fields. Yes there will be a high level of specialization, but I also believe that humans will have the time and resources to specialize in so many fields that they will continue to be well-rounded individuals.

  • #5908


    I would like to address the specific social groups that have been provided as examples. First, I do agree that powerful organizations will jump to be the earliest innovators and adopters of enhancements. Primarily, if a social stigma were lifted with certain pharmaceuticals that are already available, perhaps medicine for ADHD would be available without a prescription at all. Financial or legal firms that require employees to work long hours may officially implement a regimen of Adderall that they strongly recommend to workers. As another comment mentioned, it would be in a company’s best interest to take advantage of this assuming it becomes legal as other firms will definitely do the same. In the name of competition, it could become a career “necessity.”

    Necessity is a strong word to use when considering any bio enhancement. Unless someone is diagnosed with an illness and its only remedy is a pill or equivalent treatment, then bioenhancements should not be deemed a necessity. This would likely be the argument of the religious orthodox, another social group that would have much to say about this phenomenon. However, I think many people will also hold this view not only because it could harm one’s authenticity or human flourishing, but also that it provides certain people with unfair advantages. If people are using these enhancements out of perceived necessity rather than medical needs, then competition surfaces.

    This reminds me of the idea Bess has for hosting two separate Wimbledon matches – one for the enhanced and one for the unenhanced. This will be a true test of bio enhancement implementation. In some ways, distinguishing the two groups may be fairer in this realm since athletes are matched with people of similar skill levels. While this would work for sports, distinguishing two groups of enhanced and bioenhanced workers would create a new form of labor discrimination and complications. A door opens for even more inequalities – socioeconomic disparities that stifle bio enhancement access, opposing religious beliefs, and moral resistance may create a deeply self-segregating society.

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