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The progression of science, especially bio-technology, has always been the silver lining for handicapped people. With the invention of prosthetic limbs, electronic ear implants and even skin reparation, technology enables these people to live normal human lives. However, science is not going to stop at helping lame people walk. Why only help them to lead ‘normal’ lives when we can grant them superhuman abilities?
The benefits of enhancing our abilities are self-evident. After all, who wouldn’t want to be stronger, faster and smarter? However, if we do indeed enhance ourselves with mechanical parts and break our human limits, are we still considered humans? While such technology is still in its infant stages, this has already been an on-going debate in bio-ethics for decades, a debate known as transhumanism. While advocates of transhumanism has purported that the combination of science and human would “epitomize the most daring, courageous, imaginative, and idealistic aspirations of humanity” (Ronald Bailey, 2004), the opposing camp regarded this as unethical and an undermining of human nature.
Most of our contemporary literature and films tilts towards the latter argument, with tranhumanism generally seen as a by-product or even the cause of a dystopian society. One excellent example would be Gattaca, where genetic engineering gave birth to a society governed by biological determinism, a world whereby one’s social class was solely determined by genetic makeup coded by a higher controlling power. If we allow transhumanism to pervade in our society, would it not lead to a situation whereby the rich would posses superior modifications, widening the gulf that already exists between affluent and the underprivileged. More importantly, if all our abilities were already predetermined with genetic engineering, what would happen to the human spirit? It would seem that we would be robbed of our liberty, robbed of the freedom to choose our own path in life. This idea is taken to the extreme in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where humans are genetically altered in the embryo stage, leading to a rigid hierarchy whereby no one could ever hope to break out of. Humans are literally manufactured like robots, becoming a mere by-product of technology.
The gothic horror novel Frankenstein also cautions against human modification for it blurs the boundary between human and artifact. In the novel, the monster was created with the vision of a strong, intelligent human and was put together with a careful selection of body parts. Yet, the result was an abomination of nature and few would regard him as a human. Similarly, if we replaced our organs with better mechanical substitutes or genetically modified ourselves, would we too be dehumanized in the same way? Proponents of transhumanism argue that so long as we retain the essence of being a human, we would remain to be one. However, as would be discussed in the next section, we can hardly ascertain what truly defines our human identity. By trying to play god and deviating from Christian ideology that “Man is made in the image of god”, our hubris might already have made us sub-human.
On the flip side of the coin, human enhancement do have the potential to increase human lifespan and efficiency, generally helping us to achieve greater heights in life. When organ transplant was first introduced, it was too considered unnatural but nowadays, it is widely accepted in society. Therefore, while transhumanism does seem to have numerous flaws and risky consequences, it might still be worth a shot.
And thats what we did -– In February 2009, a Los Angeles fertility clinic offered last month to let parents choose their kids' hair and eye color. What ensued was a wave of outrage and outrage, causing the clinic shut the program down on 2nd March. This service, known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), was met with varied response. Transhumanists would think the termination of the program a shame, maintaining that if nobody gets hurt and everybody have access, then genetic modification is perfectly fine. They assume that if women have the right to control their own bodies, then they should be able to make a choice when it comes to their babies as well. Bioethicists refute this on the ground that parents are making a decision that is no longer personal – they are extending the consequences of their seemingly harmless choice to their unborn children. Altering their children’s genes for cosmetic purpose, at the end of the day, is but an old-fashioned parental impulse stemming from pure vanity.
In the end, it all comes down to personal choice. Will transhumanism make us better human or will we transform into something less? You decide.
Despite its controversial nature, Science has already taken its steps to change us into “better” humans. Notable enhancements include:
Athlete Oscar Pistorius, known as the fastest man with artificial limbs, is also nicknamed the Blade Runner.
British Ministry of Defense have named their military satellites “Skynet”, which is in control of 4 unmanned Killer Vehicles (MQ-9 Reaper). Talk about daring the robots to destroy us all.
Long before robots were introduced to humans, Mary Shelly has already postulated the presence of the uncanny valley with Frankenstein’s monster.
Programmers are taking into account that AI is far superior compared to human intelligence in the aspect of chess, and work on handicaps such as giving the AI less time to think, or removing a piece from the computer.
Deep Thought became the first Artificial Intelligence program that managed to beat a grandmaster of chess in a tournament when it defeated Bent Larson in 1989