What do I think of transhumanism?
I classify transhumanism with self-improvement. As a moral category, it would be tantamount to working out, or eating healthful foods, or devoting one's self to a useful art of study.
I'm a fan of the healing arts. Medicine. Gene therapy. Pharmacology. All of 'em.
If health can be improved, then I think that "fitness" is an important aspect of increasing human freedom (thereby increasing choice, and, thus, moral choice).
Without many choices there aren't very many moral choices. And you can't make choices if you're dead... so, living longer is linked to living well on some level.
To put it another way; gnats don't have time to read UPB... the lifespan of a gnat is just long enough to eat, mate, and die. And to counter the argument of, say, Galapagos tortoises, I would say that they have a slow time perspective - a slower metabolism, essentially... I'd say that the inner life of a 100 year old tortoise is short.
(quick aside: time perspective changes with age, and number of memories logged... as a child, many memories are logged very quickly, and the time of one year seems like forever. As an adult, people have "seen it all before", log few new, distinct memories, and a year might just fly by... even though a year is the same unit of time, obviously, for the adult as it is for the child)
My point is that; as life [bios] gets better - people have more opportunity to do good and to enrich their lives... in a way, it is a positive feedback loop of morality, quality of life, and advances in technology/freedom.
I'm all for increasing good through increases in standards (of living, of health, of interactions with people, etc.).
I'm a biochemist, and I'd love to research how to live longer. My medium-term goal is to study a master's degree in bioinformatics at Tulane, or Johns Hopkins, or where ever I can (to add a little more biochemistry to computer science, make genechips and microarrays for high thorough-put genetic screening, maybe study a bit of computational biology, and get better with computers and automation on the side).
There's nothing wrong with cyborgs, just as there's nothing wrong with prosthetic limbs for amputees. If you can enhance your life (and your body) in a peaceful way, then I see nothing wrong with that.
Of course there are always bad ways to go about the pursuit of enhancement...
This is where bioethics needs to take a long, hard look at experimental designs, and about what is (and what is not) ok to do with humans, and a number of topics.
For instance, how does a technologist minimize negative externalities (such as increasing antibiotic resistance by introducing a product into cattle feed... most of the world's antibiotics production is actually feed to livestock, btw). Can a technologist adopt a more clever approach (say, using bacteriophages, instead, to kill only harmful bacteria, as opposed to selecting for only strains that carry resistance by wiping out all competing bacteria)? The more clever the approach, the more efficient the technology, and the less spill-over there is... but... how much of R'n'D should go to optimization? How does a market incentivize cleverness that is subtle?
Capitalism does a great job at allocating resources, but is ultimately dependent on economic agents (who are also moral agents) to make decisions of where to allocate resources.
It is sometimes difficult to use, say, environmental forensics - to pin down the source of negative externalities caused by a technologist on the cutting edge...
Technologists on the cutting edge are well served by understanding ethics (in my case, bioethics). I may gain expediency by cutting corners... but I have to ask, "is this moral?" For instance, it would be very expedient to jump to human trails for a drug or treatment... but would it be moral? Have I been diligent, and am I worthy of the trust of my subjects?
What if no one will know if I introduced a repeating sequence into a genome that results in an anticipation disease 3 generations from now (http://en.wikipedia....tion_(genetics) )? This is not a question that the market can solve. In fact, it may be cheaper to quickly, and easily have a cassette containing a dangerous sequence that also contains a favorable sequence... Basically, what do you do when no one is looking?
At the cutting edge, all alone and ahead of people, one must rely on the integrity of their morals and knowledge - because social cues don't exist on a frontier. Transhumanism is very cutting edge...
(again, living longer would mean that I would be alive and responsible for more generations, thus, justice would find me and there would be additional consequences, and the moral argument would become more and more tangible as the children's children of a genetically engineered subject seek restitution for my sloppiness, in this hypothetical)
Unfortunately, few laypeople can make an informed decision on a technical matter. Voting, consensus, social cues, (and sometimes even markets) can't tell a technologist what they ought to do in the moment. There is a lag to adopting technologies... sometimes the lag is longer than a person's lifetime. How does one spend their life, when they cannot get feedback?
Is it worth it even if you won't see it in your lifetime?
I would ask Stef if he felt it is worth it to improve philosophy even though he won't see the full results of his actions within his lifetime... He would probably say that it was worth it for him... but Stef has a compass... not everyone has a very good compass.
I think that the relative peacefulness that we see at this point in history (as compared to, say, the killing fields of past epochs) relates to quality of life. I think that death and disease cause a lot of destructive behaviors in humans.
I don't intend on having children, so peaceful parenting is not something that I can have much primacy, or excellence, in doing. I'm not a famous philosopher. I'm a simple biochemist.
What is my philosophy? What are my ethics? How do I actualize my ideals?
I spent two years working in research oncology (among other jobs). I have some skills which may be useful. I can save people's lives (in some limited sense), but I can't give them a life (or inner-life, if you will). I can research how to cure people like Stef, but I cannot (nor would I want to be) Stefan (nor anyone else). I think that's an example of a longer life yielding more good in the world.
I see that as, essentially, my lived philosophy. It is, essentially, work-ethic. My works are there in harmony with my ethics.
I think transhumanism raises the stakes. Longer lives raises the stakes. I think the added freedom raises the stakes... but also increases moral agency... I'm all for increasing moral agency, and so I will, as far as I am able.
...There was a time when I wanted to kill everyone (before philosophy, before I read Atlas Shrugged)... I wanted to rain death from the skies by isolating botulism toxin (one of the most potent toxins known to man, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. I have the skills. I can culture anaerobic bacteria, isolate the bio-molecule that acts as a protease inhibitor that is so lethal that the LD50 [lethal dose 50% of the time: dose per kilogram of living tissue] is 1 nanogarm... per kilogram... one gram could kill one million people http://www.siumed.ed...BotulismPPT.pdf )... I could have run it on a chromatography column, done my biochem-thing, and seeded clouds with it, or put it in the water, and, literally, rain death upon humanity... And it's cheap, too. Scary cheap.
It is fortunate that Ayn Rand got to me first.
It's even more fortunate that it set me down a path (objectivism), which lead me here, and to moral and constructive pursuits. FDR can't take full credit for preventing genocide... but it helped prevent it to a degree (again, Atlas Shrugged was my triage and intervention).
...So, what is it about philosophy, here, which results in my interest in transhumanism instead of genocide?
Well... empathy and healing, I suppose, in short.
I think that technology is amoral. Any tool is amoral, and depends on the morality of the wielder. But humans... they have moral agency.
I like humans (now that I can empathize with myself and others, and with a healthy distance from an abusive past... I mean what mad scientist doesn't have a history of being abused?). I'd like to heal them, and give them freedom. If a person wants to enhance themselves, then I think that's great. With more knowledge comes more power, and as people get more powerful, violence becomes less of an option (because of the raised stakes, and the "discipline of constant dealings"), and good becomes more preferred.
I expect the future to be... interesting, to say the least. Transhumanism is one such interesting thing that is highly probable (knowing what I know).
As Doug Casey would say (who advocates getting rich - to get ahead of these technologies and to adopt things which enrich and extend life), "Hold onto your hats."
... I did this in college; I made the enzyme Lactate dehydrogenase better [faster] =) http://en.wikipedia....e_dehydrogenase The enzyme that converts a simple sugar into lactic acid (that stuff that supposedly makes your muscles sore after a workout) - which you use to get a quick burst of energy, when, say, you're lifting weights or sprinting.
Here's my experimental design; a simple point mutation that I picked because I wanted to study the hinge region that clasps the lactate:
Hypothesis: Point mutagenesis of Alanine 98 (Highlighted in red) to a Glycine will increase the degrees of freedom of the hinge region, which will in turn, allow greater access to the active site and faster kinetics. Alanine's Methyl group sterically hinders the hinge and limits the Phi Psi angles. Glycine would not have the Methyl R group and would have greater rotational freedom because of the Hydrogen R group. The null hypothesis would show that this rigidity is nessesary to the hinge's function.
Fig. 1) Normal LDH structure. Hinge regions in red, loop in blue.
Fig. 2) Normal LDH. Hinge regions in red, loop in blue.
Fig. 3) Proposed site of mutagenesis in yellow.
Fig. 4) Site of mutagenesis in yellow. The methyl group of the highlighted Alanine points to the lower left.
Query 1 MSTKEKLIDHVMKEEPIGSRNKVTVVGVGMVGMASAVSILLKDLCDELALVDVMEDKLKG 60
Sbjct 1 MSTKEKLIDHVMKEEPIGSRNKVTVVGVGMVGMASAVSILLKDLCDELALVDVMEDKLKG 60
Query 61 EVMDLQHGGLFLKTHKIVGDKDYSVTANSRVVVVTAGARQQEGESRLNLVQRNVNIFKFI 120
Sbjct 61 EVMDLQHGGLFLKTHKIVGDKDYSVTANSRVVVVTAGGRQQEGESRLNLVQRNVNIFKFI 120
Query 121 IPNIVKYSPNCILMVVSNPVDILTYVAWKLSGFPRHRVIGSGTNLDSARFRHIMGEKLHL 180
Sbjct 121 IPNIVKYSPNCILMVVSNPVDILTYVAWKLSGFPRHRVIGSGTNLDSARFRHIMGEKLHL 180
Query 181 HPSSCHGWIVGEHGDSSVPVWSGVNVAGVSLQTLNPKMGAEGDTENWKAVHKMVVDGAYE 240
Sbjct 181 HPSSCHGWIVGEHGDSSVPVWSGVNVAGVSLQTLNPKMGAEGDTENWKAVHKMVVDGAYE 240
Query 241 VIKLKGYTSWAIGMSVADLVESIVKNLHKVHPVSTLVKGMHGVKDEVFLSVPCVLGNSGL 300
Sbjct 241 VIKLKGYTSWAIGMSVADLVESIVKNLHKVHPVSTLVKGMHGVKDEVFLSVPCVLGNSGL 300
Query 301 TDVIHMTLKPEEEKQLVKSAETLWGVQKELTLGSSSHHHHHH 342
Sbjct 301 TDVIHMTLKPEEEKQLVKSAETLWGVQKELTLGSSSHHHHHH 342
atgtccacca aggagaagct catcgaccac gtgatgaagg aggagcctat tggcagcagg aacaaggtga cggtggtggg cgttggcatg gtgggcatgg cctccgccgt cagcatcctg
ctcaaggacc tgtgtgacga gctggccctg gttgacgtga tggaggacaa gctgaagggc
gaggtcatgg acctgcagca cggaggcctc ttcctcaaga cgcacaagat tgttggcgac
aaagactaca gtgtcacagc caactccagg gtggtggtgg tgaccgccgg cgcccgccag
caggagggcg agagccgtct caacctggtg cagcgcaacg tcaacatctt caagttcatc
atccccaaca tcgtcaagta cagccccaac tgcatcctga tggtggtctc caacccagtg
gacatcctga cctacgtggc ctggaagctg agcgggttcc cccgccaccg cgtcatcggc
tctggcacca acctggactc tgcccgtttc cgccacatca tgggagagaa gctccacctc
cacccttcca gctgccacgg ctggatcgtc ggagagcacg gagactccag tgtgcctgtg
tggagtggag tgaacgttgc tggagtttct ctgcagaccc ttaacccaaa gatgggggct
gagggtgaca cggagaactg gaaggcggtt cataagatgg tggttgatgg agcctacgag
gtgatcaagc tgaagggcta cacttcctgg gccatcggca tgtccgtggc tgacctggtg
gagagcatcg tgaagaacct gcacaaagtg cacccagtgt ccacactggt caagggcatg
cacggagtaa aggacgaggt cttcctgagt gtcccttgcg tcctgggcaa cagcggcctg
acggacgtca ttcacatgac gctgaagccc gaagaggaga agcagctggt gaagagcgcc
gagaccctgt ggggcgtaca gaaggagctc accctgggta gctcgagcca tcaccatcac catcactag
The red highlighted sequence is the alanine. The GCC will be replaced with GGC, in order to switch A->G.
The forward primer will be 5` gtgg tgaccgccgg cggccgccag caggagggc 3` (16 before the mutant and 16 after; as 33 bps is within the westlab protocol)
The reverse primer will be 5` gcc ctcct gctgg cggcc gccgg cggtc accac 3`
(side by side)
forward 5` gtggt gaccg ccggc ggccg ccagc aggag ggc 3`
reverse 5` gcc ctcct gctgg cggcc gccgg cggtc accac 3`
Using circular pBG89-LDH recombinate plasmids (purified earlier), preform a “Quickchange 2 Site-Directed Mutagenesis” (a PCR using the mutant primer)
(if time during same session) Transform competent cells, using DH5α cells (as done before) and plate.
Do a digest and agrose electroproesis to make sure we have an approriate sized digest/plasmid, if good;
Express LDH 98A∆G during log phase, using IPTG or lactose analogue
Pellet DH5α cells
(from http://www.radiolab....so-called-life/ )
You can look up the sequence on BLAST, if you want, and download the structure to pyMOL, if you'd like: