Enhancement Anxiety

Russell Blackford

A problem with the current debates about emerging technologies is that they really are debates—plural. Reasonable policy approaches to embryonic sex selection, for example, or to human reproductive cloning, if it were available, might not generalize to more radical technologies that could reverse the aging process, dramatically increase our cognitive capacities, alter the gross morphology of human bodies, or merge our brains with sophisticated cybernetic devices. People of reason should see each of these varied prospects as raising its own specific questions.

Consider reproductive cloning. Over the past fifteen years, Western policy makers have squandered a golden opportunity that came their way in February of 1997, when the birth of Dolly the sheep was announced in the leading science journal Nature. In principle, the somatic cell nuclear transfer technique used to create Dolly could have been applied to human beings, though this has not happened in practice because of technical difficulties. Their attention seized by the entirely hypothetical prospect of human cloning, priests and pundits thundered about playing God or violating the natural order, about the threat of a Brave New World and the alleged wisdom of repugnance. In response, many legal prohibitions were enacted in jurisdictions around the world.

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