There’s an interesting discussion going on between Nigel Cameron (pictured), Director of the Center on Nanotechnology and Society and President of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future, and George Dvorsky, President of the Toronto Transhumanist Association.
Cameron kicked the discussion off with Choosing tomorrow: some problems of "transhumanist" approaches to emerging technologies in which he observed:
There is nothing so troubling as the near-absence of healthy public engagement on the social and ethical implications of emerging technologies.
Perhaps the gravest challenge to democracy in the 21st century is how to build policy and develop accountability to frame the advance of technologies that promise to be disruptive on a wholly new scale.
And whether some of the highly optimistic assumptions that run through transhumanist thinking are ultimately justified.
Dvorsky responded in an interview with the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies called Nanotechnology Will Reshape Humanity. His comments included:
The idea behind these technologies is to reduce suffering and to foster meaningful lives.
The goal for future societies will be to make these new technologies as widely accessible and affordable as possible.
To me, Dvorsky is betraying the highly optimistic assumptions that run through transhumanist thinking that Cameron alluded to. The desire to reduce suffering and to foster meaningful lives, for example, may be an attribute of transhunmanism, but it is by no means the idea behind nanotechnology which, like most technologies, is driven more by economics than altruism.
I would say the same about Dvorsky’s claim that the goal for future societies will be to make these new technologies as widely accessible and affordable as possible. It is more likely that the goal will be to make as much money as possible with these new technologies.
Dvorsky could be seen as confusing the aims of science and business, and assuming that nanotech development will be led by science. I believe it will be led, as all technologies have been, by business, so to claim nanotech will be driven by altruistic aims is wishful thinking.
And although I disagree with some of Dvorsky’s assertions, he makes many good points. And if we accept the textbook definition of transhumanism as a philosophy supporting the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human cognitive and physical aptitudes, I guess that makes me a transhumanist.